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Album of the Week: Tenacious D Aimlessly Drift Through Half-Baked Post-Apocalypto

on November 02, 2018, 3:30pm
C-
Release Date
November 02, 2018
Label
Columbia
Formats
digital, vinyl, cd
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The Lowdown: After surviving a guitar duel with Satan, the career suicide of The Pick of Destiny, and that weird beholder from the old Butt Baby sketch, Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D return to the small screen for a bout with their scariest foe yet: 2018 (oh, and nuclear holocaust). Their story as Tenacious D continues in Post-Apocalypto, a six-part YouTube series featuring Black’s own hand-drawn animation along with an accompanying record.

The Good: Even setting aside the notion that any new material from the tricksters of Tenacious D is an undeniable good in a cultural moment when laughs are harder to come by than usual, there are moments throughout Post-Apocalypto that remind you of what made Black and Gass such a potent duo to begin with. Sometimes, that all comes down to character work; we’ve seen third wheels insinuate themselves into the D before, but rarely ones that exude such jittery Teutonic weirdness as the Terminator-style Robot. His arrival in episode four saves the show’s distracted plot, and his neurotic Schwarzenegger-ism feels destined to live on in poorly quoted frat house bull sessions for years to come.

Tenacious D saved the biggest surprises here for the music, however. Rather than spend the entire record rehashing their already proven talents for mock metal grandeur, Black and Gass explore different, but no less ridiculous, sonic territory; the parodic ’60s balladry of “Hope” feels like a warped Rod McKuen poem, “Colors” luxuriates in its own anthemic earnestness, and the Jefferson Airplane-style “Making Love” could be the older, more sensual cousin of “Fuck Her Gently”.

The Bad: It’s difficult to call a show that features fanged genital monsters, a three-headed dog, and a mystical time-travel crystal controlled by Donald Trump Jr. and his army of Nazis and Klansmen boring, but Post-Apocalypto never quite knows what to do with its own weird, latent energy. Faced with a choice between becoming a fast-paced action series or a gigglingly slow stoner comedy, the series opts for half of each, resulting in an unwieldy picaresque in which subplots go nowhere, the humor stops just below the surface, and Black’s deliberately shoddy slideshow-style drawings wind up feeling predictable in their own gonzoness (and make 12 Oz. Mouse look like Spirited Away by comparison).

Those same problems extend to the record. As a soundtrack, Post-Apocalypto suffers from many of the same problems that tripped up The Pick of Destiny — mainly, the fact that the rock opera-style material contained within doesn’t really stand on its own when divorced from its source material. This time around, there’s also a dearth of actual music here; stripped of the skits, the record clocks in at under 20 minutes, with many of the best tracks left tantalizingly underdeveloped. You’ll likely find yourself imagining what it would’ve been like if the undeniably catchy “Post-Apocalypto Theme” had been given more than 37 seconds to explore its spaghetti western swagger or how many more fist pumps climactic rocker “Woman Time” could’ve contained had it been allowed to reach past a minute and a half. You’ve got Dave Grohl, guys! Use him!

The Verdict: After more than 30 years of collaboration, Jables and the Rage Kage have the kind of chemistry that makes engaging their work feel like hanging with your best dumb friends. Like the study hall scribbles from which Black takes his cues, there’s an aimlessness to Post-Apocalypto that prevents it from developing into much more than that this time around, either as a sporadically funny web series or the frustratingly reined-in soundtrack that accompanies it. If they weren’t already The Greatest Band in the World™, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they finally hit their ceiling.

Essential Tracks: “Apocalypto Theme”, “Making Love”, and “Colors”

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