After proving that any two monkeys with a Tascam 4-track and enough mind-expanding drugs can produce listenable sounds of arguable merit, Ween didn’t stop there. Gene and Dean Ween (aka Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo) — the pride (er…) of New Hope, Pennsylvania — quickly progressed from extreme and outrageous self-indulgence to moderate and highly entertaining self-indulgence. All it took was a wicked, Mad magazine addled sense of what’s amusing (just about everything) and what’s too tasteless or crude (nothing), talented studio pals and their own skills. In the wig-tightening process, Ween stopped being a fringe-weird affront to all but the scruffiest indie-rock addicts and became a lovable college-radio fixture, inbred nephews of They Might Be Giants, raised in Juvenile Hall to create their own engaging fantasy world. Feckless ingenuity and a puerile sensibility make Dean and Gene unreliable musical friends-get too close and you might get retched on as they run off, cackling-but Ween has life-of-the-party stamped all over its low forehead.
God Ween Satan — The Oneness, a 26-song debut produced by Andrew Weiss (better known for his bass role in Rollins Band), begins with the shrieked diatribe “You Fucked Up” and proceeds to thrash around in a dada sandbox, throwing out made-up voices and devolved musical idioms for more than an hour. The damage includes the munchkin dink-pop of “Don’t Laugh (I Love You),” a funky cover of Prince’s “Shockadelica,” two lines of demento jazz-blues (“I Gots a Weasel”), more peeves (“Cold & Wet”), overweight metal (“Mushroom Festival in Hell”), breezy reggae (“Nicole”) and fake flamenco (“El Camino”). There’s even a Beastie Boys send-up (“Old Queen Cole”) and an incisive nineteen-second Bruce Springsteen parody (“Old Man Thunder”). Like the true brats they are, Ween’ll try anything and dare you to sit through it. Equally entertaining and infuriating, The Oneness is certainly…unique.
The brats brewed up another batch of Weenness for The Pod: 22 new episodes of mindless drivel recorded at home on 4-track. Less inflamed and inspired than the first album (blame, perhaps, the five cans of Scotchguard the band claims to have inhaled), The Pod lurches, howls, fuzzes and strums through sloppy creations that are mostly one hit short of a high. When they’re not roaring out of control, songs drift aimlessly. The Beatles parodies (“Right to the Ways and the Rules of the World” and “Pork Roll Egg and Cheese”) are pretty funny, as is the straight-faced folk duet “Oh My Dear (Falling in Love),” but it says a lot about the album that “Pollo Asado,” a Mexican restaurant menu order set to music, is one of its highlights. Many of the tracks are essentially tape manipulation experiments in sound (the pitch of “Demon Sweat” drifts unsettlingly downward throughout the track): since Ween can write actual songs, they’re a waste.
Against all odds, major-label intervention didn’t screw Ween up. Pure Guava, which is every bit as uninhibited, profane and absurd as its two predecessors — witness such delicacies as “Flies on My Dick,” “Reggaejunkiejew” and “Hey Fat Boy (Asshole)” — is more judicious in its differentiation between keepers and the runts of the hellzapoppin’ litter. Also, the audio quality of their self-contained home production is significantly improved. (Maybe they stopped having to record over old cassettes.) “Push th’ Little Daisies,” a peppy and irritating old-lady-voiced ode to flowers (or is it burial?), was presentable enough for radio play; “Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)” continues the pair’s affair with English-accented ’60s pop; “I Saw Gener Cryin’ in His Sleep” adds tenderness to the emotional palette; “Pumpin’ 4 the Man” is a racing country dig at the local gas-jockey (“So get your fingers out your ass/And pump some faggot’s gas/And think about how much New Hope sucks”). The sound effects (not what you think) of “Poop Ship Destroyer” are even more unforgivable. Pure Guava — obnoxiousness in excelsis.
Memorably dressed in a midriff-baring Ween wrestling belt, Chocolate and Cheese gets the band out of its claustrophobic solitude and into the real recording world, with assists from Andrew Weiss, drummer Claude Coleman (ex-Skunk) and others; several tracks were cut in a real studio. Striking a sublime balance between sick invention and weirdly credible presentation, Ween unloads more cool and characteristic material here than on all three previous albums together. In fact, while there are certainly points contiguous to the earlier records, the duo sounds reborn, and this album is consistently brilliant. The super-creepy “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)” and “Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?” are as disturbing as anything in the Residents gallery; the creamy masterwork “Freedom of ’76” could seriously pass for that era’s Philly soul (in fact, the falsetto song is a literal tribute to the city). Elsewhere, “Baby Bitch” Weensterizes the folk-rock sound of Gordon Lightfoot or Crosby, Stills and Nash; “Drifter in the Dark” is a harmony cowboy classic; “Voodoo Lady” deconstructs disco; “I Can’t Put My Finger on It,” sung, like the tragic ballad “Buenas Tardes Amigo,” in a Mexican accent, loads on the distortion and squiggly bits and contains what has come to be a Ween catchphrase: “Are you surprised when I touch the dwarf inside?” Never.
On the other hand, surprise is about all 12 Golden Country Greats has going for it. Ween’s Nashville album walks a disturbingly straight line between unadorned genre exercise and obnoxious put-on. Using top session pros to pave a smooth twang all the way down home, Ween allows a few moments of presentable dignity to intrude on the more familiar malice of such typical butt-busters as “Piss Up a Rope,” “Fluffy” and “Help Me Scrape the Mucus off My Brain.” Although funny enough on paper and of a creative piece with the Weensters’ usual stupidity, the album is so beholden to the dissonance between sound and vision (shades of John Trubee’s classic “A Blind Man’s Penis”) that it fails to register adequate irony or lack thereof.
Ween’s brand of eccentricity so discourages imitation and defies parody that the idea of paying tribute to the group on record is too quixotic for words. (Although a dentist’s office edition of Pure Guava would be worth hearing.) Yet that’s what New York’s Cogs took it upon themselves to do. Absolute Ween finds the duo stumbling aimlessly through the lo-fi haze, taking a properly dissolute (and thus fairly convincing) swipe at a career-spanning quintet of Ween tunes, including “Puffy Cloud,” “Captain Fantasy” and “Pork Roll, Egg & Cheese.”