Album Review: Tenacious D – Self-titled Album

Tenacious D are an American comedy rock duo from Los Angeles, California, made up of Actors Jack Black on Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar and Kyle Gass on Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals. While Black and Gass represent the core members of the group, and have remained unchanged since the duo formed in 1994, they have occasionally been joined by other guests, and upon occasion have fleshed themselves out with session musicians for live performances and recording sessions, with John Konesky, John Spiker and Scott Seiver being examples. Prior to the release of their debut album which we will be discussing today, Tenacious D starred in a TV series on HBO which ran from 1997 until 2000, with a total of six episodes. The television show was created by Jack Black and Kyle Gass, alongside the talents of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. It featured the fictional exploits of the real life comedy duo. I strongly suggest you watch it. Perhaps I’m a philistine, but I don’t really recall hearing about Tenacious D here in the UK until the release of their 2006 ‘cult classic’ movie Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (for which they also released an album of the same name). While the movie failed to make back the budget which was spent producing it, I honestly really enjoyed it, and while I’m starting with their first album, their album ‘The Pick of Destiny’ still stacks up among my personal favourites, especially from the early to mid 2000s. 

I don’t want to spend too much time on the intro, partly because you all know who Tenacious D are and this album review is unlikely to tread any significant new ground, but I wanted to do it because this platform is mine to share, promote and otherwise discuss topics I enjoy so I figured why not. But yeah, today, check out my thoughts on Tenacious D’s self titled debut album which was released on September 25th 2001. 

‘Kielbasa’ kicks things off with Gass announcing they have to write something new, and then the pair work through some opening chords that begin to shape up the track, and it’s a nice melody, it blends well with Jack’s vocals. I’ve always loved his voice and it merges well with the slightly ludicrous nature of the track. Weirdly, it actually flows really well. I mentioned above that I have big nostalgic feelings for ‘The Pick of Destiny’ but actually listening to this album for the first time in years I’m reminded why I liked the band so much. 

‘One Note Song (skit)’ is one of the skits, now I’ve seen people say this kind of weight down the track, but as I’ve said in other reviews I’m always partial to these silly interludes. Also I’ve been a music journalist for 5+ years and was very briefly in my own band and while it’s slightly exaggerated, this comes off as an authentic interaction between artists who are comfortable with one another. 

‘Tribute’ is an amazing song, it opens sofly, light acoustic guitar chords, flowing as Jack tells a story, and I think that’s one of his strengths, that and his vocal diversity and passionate delivery. I used to listen to this song all the time. It’s just such a strong track. I like the solemnity combined with the exaggeration. You could listen to this track and instantly get a feel for the band. Also something I might talk about later in the review but even though they are a comedy rock group, and I’ve read somewhere that Gass, as the straight man, considers the band to an extent, a deconstruction of the serious musician archetype, but despite that they don’t slack when it comes to the musical cause this has some phenomenal instrumental backing. 

‘Wonderboy’ likewise starts off strong, a slow and surprisingly gentle melody, guitars and percussion that builds in intensity as Black’s vocals just bring things to life. I love his ability to hit long, sustaining, high notes. He’s a good vocalist and has a good rock ‘n’ roll voice. Also Gass is amazing on guitar, there’s so many little bits that don’t need to be in this track, but he builds these intricate pieces alongside Jack. 

‘Hard Fucking (skit)’ I touched on it above, but these are my favourite part of what is already shaping up to be a superb album, they are arguably unnecessary but are super funny. This one in particular leads into the topic of the next track. 

‘Fuck Her Gently’ is one of my favourites on the album, it’s soft and delicate but deals with very crass subject matter, the counterpoint making for an entertaining song. And as I talked about above, they present comedic situations and lyrics, but the music itself is top notch, the backing instrumentals are faultless and Black delivers an amazing vocal performance throughout. 

‘Explosivo’ changes things up slightly, the previous track remained consistently mellow in terms of it’s tempo and delivery but this one rips forward, all energy and intensity and it shakes things up quite nicely. That’s not to say it doesn’t have softer points, in fact one of the best things about Black’s voice is his ability to portray softness and whimsy in addition to power and awesomeness.

‘Dio’ slows things down again just a bit, and yet it’s not just gentle and melodic, it has a bit of a kick to it, and you just get sucked up in the performance. 

‘Inward Singing (skit)’ is really funny, you can feel the excitement and the almost manic energy of Jack throughout, counterpointed by Gass’s lack of interest in his musical invention. I love these improv style bits because they are legitimately entertaining but also just because they feel like real, if obviously heightened conversations. 

‘Kyle Quit the Band’ has some amazing guitar playing up front, simple but pure, and I love the way this track really builds. It’s short which is its only downside but it really works, the percussion leading way to a powerful number that sweeps you away in the intensity of the performers. 

‘The Road’ kicks off hard, a high energy country styled number that has a really nice vibe to it, I’ve said it before but I love the blend of genuine skill and passion, with the obvious comedic overtones of the group. You’ll often find that comedy groups lie on one side of the spectrum or another, funny but with weaker music, or vice versa but they’ve found an ideal sweet spot where they produce awesome and entertaining tracks. 

‘Cock Pushups (skit)’ really encapsulates what I was talking about in the previous skit entry, where it has such an authentic feel, you can imagine them in one of their apartments, maybe a little high, just having this discussion. 

‘Lee’ is another personal favourite from the album, it has phenomenal forward momentum and energy, and because of the high tempo repetition it just kind of sticks in your mind. You can also feel how much they put into it despite it being a fairly brief song. 

‘Friendship Test (skit)’ is very sweet, and just a bit silly, it’s also another skit which leads into the subsequent track, making it a good connective piece rather than a non sequitur. 

‘Friendship’ has a mid tempo track, neither fast nor slow, just a well balanced song. I think the true standout of this track was the instrumentals, the guitars were rich and explored things throughout, changing melody to create a more complex song. I also loved the vocal harmony at the end which really tied things together. 

‘Karate Schnitzel (skit)’ has Black Karate chop Gass for eating his Schnitzel, it’s silly and it works both as a funny comedy interlude and again as a nice connection to the broader theme of the next song. 

‘Karate’ is an extension of the previous skit, but despite that it’s a really strong track, it has some really impressive vocal sections and I really love hearing Black deliver the line ‘motherfucker’ in such a soulful and melodic way. 

‘Rock Your Socks’ opens with a countdown, before Black breaks ranks and shouts ‘666’ and explodes forwards, this track has very heavy percussive elements. Also the classical guitar elements really flesh out and make this song everything that it can be. I just love this track, the energy, the blending of comedy, even the term ‘Rock Your Socks’ being quite sweet, and the hammering guitars throughout. It’s for those reasons and more that this track is my number one pick for this album. 

‘Drive-Thru (skit)’ always makes me laugh, particularly how angry Jack get’s throughout. It’s genuinely just superb. Also this skit really made me hungry.

‘Double Team’ opens with melodic acoustic guitar, as Black riffs over top. I love his ability to make something ridiculous sound so good. I also loved the balance between this track, the faster and slower sections, working together to create a really strong track. I really liked the funky overtones to this song, it all contributes to a superb musical experience. 

‘City Hall/I Believe/Malibu Nights Medley’ is a tremendous track to finish things up on, it’s such a pure combination of music, I’ve always really liked this medley, it flows really well, the right balance of upbeat and intense, and slower more melodious parts. Overall this was very close to taking the top spot on the album for me, because it just has a little bit of everything that makes Tenacious D great but in my opinion, in the end I personally liked ‘Rock Your Socks’ just a little bit better. 

So that’s what I thought of Tenacious D’s self titled debut album and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. Make sure and check out their website, and support the band by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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