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i cannot reveal the words of the golden eel

 

Ween

 

I can't really think of anything to say about these guys. You either love them or hate them.

lineup: Dean and Gene Ween (vocals & guitars). big surprise, huh?

review index: GodWeenSatan: The Oneness / The Pod / Pure Guava / Chocolate & Cheese / 12 Golden Country Greats / The Mollusk / White Pepper

missing albums: quebec. also the obligatory live album.

apex: The Mollusk
nadir: Pure Guava
overlooked: uh...


GodWeenSatan: The Oneness - 1990

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: why?
Worst songs: WHY?!

 

The first album by the Brothers Ween is by no means unambitious: at 25-or-so songs (there are some bonus tracks that I can't ), it spans something like 70 minutes. I'll be damned if I'm going to try and slog through all (or most) of them individually, so you'll have to make do with a few sweeping generalizations. First, there are two major strikes against this album. One is that the album gets bogged down a few times with some really damned long tracks, "Nicole" and "LMLYP". At nine minutes each, they're about seven or eight minutes too long for this album. Pacing, people, pacing! Anyway, strike #2 is that the album really starts to sound way too much like Adam Sandler on more than one occasion, i.e. not-funny things being sung in a stupid voice. (You want examples? Try "Fat Lenny" or "Common Bitch".)

Other than those two unfortunate inconsistencies, this album is fairly good. "You Fucked Up", "Tick", and "Wayne's Pet Youngin" are noisey lo-fi rock delights, and "Don't Laugh (I Love You)" is one of the more incomprehensible love songs ever written. As I said, it's a little hard for me to go through all of it, but to cut to SCENE DELETED, it's a decent enough debut. Of course, Ween being as schizophrenic as they are, they'll never do an album like this one again.


The Pod - 1991

Rating: **
Best songs: I'm not doing this until they put less than 20 songs on the damn albums.
Worst songs: see above.

 

Jesus, another long album. From the debut, this is a step up in production quality and also not nearly as loud (for the most part). Unfortunately the songs have gotten longer without getting more fleshed-out. Yeah, there aren't any 9-minute snorefests this time, but there are plenty of 3 and 4-minute songs that don't manage a whole lot in their lifespans. The opener "Strap On That Jammy Pac" is the prime example of this; I'm sure that it's supposed to sound like that, and it's kinda funny, but it doesn't make me want to listen to it. And "Pollo Asado"... is this shit meant to be funny?

This is not to say the album isn't a total waste. There are several worthwhile tracks on this one as well: the silly "Dr. Rock" is absurdly catchy, and there are a couple genre experiments that are nigh-indecipherable but still good (country on "Sorry Charlie" and soft-rock on "Demon Sweat"). And there's the kickass metal song "Sketches of Winkle" and some foreshadowing of The Mollusk on "Right to the Ways and the Rules of the World". It's not quite as good as the first one, but still worth hearing if you can bum it off one of your friends (like I did!).


Pure Guava - 1992

Rating: 1/2
Best songs: Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)
Worst songs: uh, the rest of them?

 

Remember when I said that some of the songs on The Pod don't really go anywhere? Of course you do -- you probably just read it about 30 seconds ago. It seems as if the Bretheren Ween decided to smoke a lot of pot, because this album just reeks of wacky tabacky. The songs somehow manage even less than the crappy tracks on The Pod. I don't even feel like ranting about how craptastic this album is. The only good track is the Prince-ey "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)". Download it* and do not bother with this album.

Extra note: for some reason, "Pumpin' 4 the Man" sounds like TMBG's "Hope That I Get Old Before I Die". Why? I have no idea.

* By using the phrase "download it", I am advocating only legal file-sharing services, and would never encourage anyone to do anything remotely illegal.


Chocolate & Cheese - 1994

Rating: ****
Best songs: Take Me Away, A Tear for Eddie, Buenas Tardes Amigo, Freedom of '76
Worst songs: Joppa Road, Candi, The HIV Song

 

Yes, would someone mind telling me where this came from? Two years after Pure Crap, they actually come up with a great album? Thankfully they've eased up on the medical marijuana, and instead are concentrating on genre-bending, with great results.

But where to start? I have no idea. The production is even more improved -- a bit light on the bass side of things, but otherwise crystal clear. The first five songs comprise the best stretch of tracks the Weensters have composed thus far: from weird loungey rock to creepy-ass whateverness to Philly soul to vaguely-ethnic something-or-other to a guitar solo that sounds like Pink Floyd. And things continue on pretty well from there, with the disco fun of "Voodoo Lady", cowboy song "Drifter in the Dark", and western epic "Buenas Tardes Amigo". Did I catch everything? Well, that's like, half the songs on the album, so it's probably enough.

Bad thing(s) about the album? Just one: some of the songs near the end stray towards the pointlessness that plagued several of the tracks on the previous two albums. The backing track to "Candi" sounds like it was taken from Final Fantasy 3. And I don't mean that as a compliment. "Joppa Road" is about 3:02 too long, and "The HIV Song" is pretty stupid. But other than that, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll like this one. Of course, you probably like the previous ones as well, and think I'm full of shit. That's fine too.


12 Golden Country Greats - 1996

Rating: ***
Best songs: I'm Holding You, Piss Up a Rope, Japanese Cowboy, Mister Richard Smoker
Worst songs: most of the second half, really...

 

So, you do the best album of your career so far, now what? Of course, a country album. Ten songs in a completely random genre clocking in at 32 minutes is pretty much the definition of "slight", but our favorite pair of fake brothers don't go into it half-assed. They use their whole ass!

No, that wasn't supposed to be funny. Anyway, the first half of this album is great. The second half is not. How the hell many times do I have to say that? Why can't artists just be consistent? Is this too much to ask?

Shit, what was I talking about? Oh, right, Ween. Country album. First half is great. "I'm Holding You" is a lovely ballad, and there are a bunch of uptempo numbers, all of which are worthwhile listening (except for "Piss Up a Rope"; that is, if you're of a sensitive nature... and if you're listening to Ween you probably aren't).

The problem, you see, is that about halfway through the good melodies evaporate into nothingness. I just can't see any positive qualities to "Fluffy", "Help Me Scrap the Mucus Off My Brain", "Powder Blue", or "You Were the Fool". The only good track on this half, as far as I'm concerned, is "Mister Richard Smoker", which I should probably find offensive, but it's a damn catchy ragtime number, and the phrase "ono yoker" amuses me to no end. And I like to think of it and "Piss Up a Rope" as being parodic of the conservative mindset put forth by country music (in general). See? Rationalization rules!


The Mollusk - 1997

Rating: *****
Best songs: The Golden Eel, Mutilated Lips, I'll Be Your Jonny On the Spot, It's Gonna Be (Alright)
Worst songs: Pink Eye (On My Leg)

 

See, when people proclaim Ween as geniuses, this is the reason why. This is an absolutely brilliant work from start to finish, aside from the not-that-interesting instrumental "Pink Eye (On My Leg)". Sort of like 12 Golden Country Greats, they tackle a particular genre, this time skewering prog-rock. And it's genius! Better than most actual prog albums, to be honest. And they get it exactly right: silly, portentious lyrics, grand-sounding synthesizers, and one of the two actually sounds a lot like Greg Lake. They don't do prog exclusively on this one, of course. Some other genres are covered: Irish drinking songs in "Blarney Stone", cheesy soft-rock in "It's Gonna Be (Alright)", high-speed new-wave in "I'll Be Your Jonny On the Spot" and "Waving My Dick In the Wind", and oh yeah, some kind of Caribbean thing in "Ocean Man". And that fulfills the number of song titles required for this review. To put it succinctly, buy this album and your ears will love you.


White Pepper - 2000

Rating: ****1/2
Best songs: the first four
Worst songs: Ice Castles, She's Your Baby

 

I'm getting kinda tired of this page, so I'll keep it short. Here's a chart:

12 Golden Country Greats country good, not great
The Mollusk prog-rock one of the best albums of the 90s
White Pepper pop almost as good as The Mollusk

Pop, yes, for the most part. It's another baggage of top-quality songs. The only bad ones this time are "Ice Castles", another dull instrumental, and "She's Your Baby", which is rather a lame album-ender. Otherwise, great.


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