Tenacious D

You don't have to believe it to laugh your face off, but you'll get more out of the self-titled debut by L.A. comedy duo Tenacious D if you buy their claim that they're the best band in the world. After you've gone through the record, you'll at least be convinced they're the best comedy duo in the world who think they're the best band in the world.

You might have seen the D already, even if you don't think you have. They've got friends in high places--Ben Stiller, the SNL troupe, Dave Grohl, some cable-TV programmers, Beck--and they've spent the last two years popping up here and there, opening Foo Fighters shows, doing late-night talk-show gigs, even scoring a three-episode HBO series that you can still see sometimes if you stay up late enough. If bells aren't ringing yet, you'll at least remember Jack Black, the more vocal half of the band, from his scene-stealing turn as the obnoxious record-store dude in High Fidelity and as pretty much the only good thing in the Jason Biggs vehicle Saving Silverman. (Partner Kyle Gass is a working actor, too--Cradle Will Rock and Evolution have been paying recent bills.)

But you get the sense from just a few seconds of their acoustic-based would-be arena rock that all that shit's secondary in these guys' minds to the alarmingly legit stunts they pull here. Tenacious D is remarkable not just because it's hilarious--which it is, and in ways I'm not even going to try to explain--but because it's as musical as any number of rock records not intended to be funny from the past couple years. The presence of Grohl behind the drum kit and the Dust Brothers at the mixing desk helps explain that, but what's really driving these guys is their stone-cold grip on classic-rock tunesmanship and Black's truly great voice. On the faux-prog epic "Wonderboy" he yowls like a feather-haired cross between Jon Anderson and Mark Slaughter, and on "The Road" it's hard to believe he wasn't hiding behind a pound of pancake in KISS. Elsewhere, Gass rips some Bach on his six-string, and the duo yell at each other in skits straight out of a better Behind the Music--see "Cock Pushups" and "Inward Singing." There's a lot of inside humor here, to be sure--"Dio" has its limits for the non-initiated--but this stuff works throughout in spite of itself. Do the right thing: give in.

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