Saturday, 4 July 2009

Annotated Discography: Ween (part 3)

Pure Guava

Hooray! Finally the time comes for me to take a look at Ween's third offering. Actually, is ISN'T Ween's third offering if we consider all those cassette tapes made in the 80's, but, you know, let's not get into that discussion. This album, either way, is a landmark: it's Ween's first album on a major label. Elektra signed these guys, based on whatever criteria they came up with, and so Ween had a much larger budget and a pretty wide range of new possibilities to try. The result was... an album made on a 4 track recorder. Yeah, just like The Pod; the difference being that the sound is pushed way, way far into the "clean" side of it, and the songs, on average, seem to be far more entertaining. This is still a really huge polariser, though. Like The Pod, yeah; but better get into the actual walkthrough instead of try to explain it here, right?

Off we go!
And it's Little Birdy, which helps set the tone for the whole album. You got a lazy drum machine snapping away a mid tempo poppy ballad thing, a guitar that's weirdly caught between a fuzzy distortion and a clean strummy sound. Difficult to describe, like much in this album. It also seems to fluctuate very, very wildly up and down, as if they've got a very unreliable tape recorder. And the vocals? Very zoned-out kind of trippy, muttering rant, about a little birdy. Very, very, VERY The Pod-ish. Ok, now Gene Ween is ranting in a very nasal, whiny monotone. I think the thing that makes this stand out from the average Pod-mush is the bizarre mix of fuzz and cleanness in the sound. Also, the lyrics aren't trying too hard to freak you out -- it's the kind of stuff that some people would sing with all seriousness in the world, somewhere in the 60's; but it's vastly exaggerated here. And now we're into Tender Situation. Alarm bells go off; slow, sparse drum machine pattern, very sparse guitar picking, whispered vocals (yeah, as in, you gotta STICK your ears to the speakers to make out the words), and they're saying "taste the waste, man, taste the waste". Yeah, I know I'm supposed to take this song as a gag, but it goes on and on and on. Right, now we bump into a very amusing synthesizer "solo"; ok, glad to know they're up to SOMETHING here, not just the whispery whispers -- but the song still goes on and on. Now-- WOW, what is this? It's The Stallion, part 3, but it's unlike ANYTHING in the previous two parts. Man, barely 20 seconds into the song you can tell it's going to be AMAZING. And it IS. Somehow, they came up with a mix of drum machines and clean guitar picking (with a heavy flanging effect) that's plainly gorgeous, and the vocals are helium-powered (Gene or Dean? Can't tell), and it's doing a VERY convincing imitation of 70's prog rock pomposity. It's amazing, truly. And it ends with "Hey dude, he's the Stallion!" muttered in a hilarious, idiotic moron voice. Great guitar solo, too. Okay, I'm hooked.

Big Jilm. Slowed down vocals muttering some garbage, and every line ends with an exclaimed "Big Jilm!". It's not too slow, and the guitars are strummy and sort of bluesy. It's funny, in a way, and it doesn't get to the point of being too repetitive and annoying. It knows when to shut up, fortunately. Push th' Little Daisies is on now. I LOVE THIS TRACK. Gene's delivery is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and combines obnoxiousness and catchiness in a completely irresistible and spontaneous manner. Awesome rhythm and guitar work! Love it, just love it; this track tramples about 90% of the songs in the two previous albums. It was Ween's "big hit", too, featured on Beavis and Butthead. Shame people didn't get the joke and thought Ween was the stupidest pile of shit goin' on. But, then again, are we gonna expect anything from the MTV audiences? Heh. This helped give Ween their image as a "novelty band", though, sadly. I STILL love the song, though. The Goin' Gets Tough from the Getgo is on now. Is this a sort of parody on hip hop, or rap, or something like that? Funky rhythm patterns, spoken lyrics. By the way, the lyrics are really funny -- the mixture between inane cursing and "serious" life messages is SPOT ON, and the constant exchanges between the two come just in the right time to highlight how absurd the thing really is. I'm already halfway convinced THIS is the album The Pod should have been all along.

Reggaejunkiejew -- what? What kind of title is that? Wait until you listen to it: it kicks off with a totally crazy rhythm on a drum machine. The vocals have a "telephone" filter applied to them. They're violently cursing and insulting some wosshisface Rastafari figure or something. Might probably be a comment on marijuana smoking kids who think rastafarianism is "cool", or maybe Ween are just being dicks. Who knows, this song still has some of the best uses of "fuck you" in a song. Check it out! And the synth solo? Freaky. As far as I can guess, each of them is playing a very rudimentary, toy-like synth. Unbelievable sound here; I'm already impressed by this album. Now we get into I Play It Off Legit. The music so far is sparse, again, with some loud percussion sounds and vibraphone-like sounds, and moaned words. The guys really have a field day rhyming "shit" with "legit". I think I can just get into the song alright after the amazing stuff I heard on this track. But, yeah, if this song were on The Pod, it would merely help to bog the experience down even further. In this context, this imitation of a completely stoned, fuck-the-world atmosphere sounds quite convincing. Now, Pumpin' 4 the Man? Wow! Lightning fast, sort of a country mockery -- the drum machine just speeds along, and the vocals follow suit! I can barely review it! All I know it's very entertaining; great vocals there. It's one minute and a half long, of course; blink and you'll miss it. But DON'T miss it. And now, it's a ballad. Sure enough, Sarah has helium vocals and spaced out guitar strumming, so don't get it confused with a "genuine" song. It's not particularly impressive, though; Ween has done better as far as parodies of "romantic" songs go. But it's not bad at all. Springtheme kicks in. Okay, it's not really that good -- fairly catchy, but not impressive. Slow, "spaced-out" faux-psychedelic mood with helium vocals and nifty bass playing; and off we go with Flies on My Dick. Lovely title. Ohh, no, there comes that SLOW, SLOW rhythm. It's The Pod all over again. Yep, this is EXACTLY like The Pod, slowed down drums and muttered vocals and all. The guitar solo is quite entertaining, though. I don't care about this song, though, either way, and it goes on for way too long. I Saw Gener Cryin' in His Sleep is funny, though, with a silly, idiotic "country" mood and weird effects with microphones. It sounds like they're playing feedback, so they audibly mess up the trick on the very first chorus and Gene (?) yells out "We fucked it up again!" in the background. Catchy, funny, short track. Nice. And Touch My Tooter is slow, fuzzed all the way to oblivion and with screamed, out of tune vocals. A parody on "grunge", perhaps? It's entertaining; as much as it goes into the "murky" territory of the previous album, at least it moves, you know?

Mourning Glory (sic) already starts off foreboding enough, with a sound VERY saturated in the low end and echoed vocals, feedback bursts, barely intelligible words. It's just almost impossible to tell what's going on, but I can tell it's purposefully messed up and "badly" recorded -- they just love messing around with the tape, without regards to how it's gonna sound. This isn't really the kind of stuff I enjoy from these guys, but this is SO messed up and random, I can't help but stop and listen closely. Really, there is NO regard for how the final result will sound like; they're just sabotaging the tape, the guitars (?) screech and feedback, and... eh. I don't know. I don't even care about the lyrics, and I wonder if I should. And that was FIVE minutes of it. I just wonder how I managed to sit through it. Just, wow. Loving U Thru It All; ballad-like, very gentle guitar picking, sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin, except the vocals are all slowed down and moany. It IS a pretty convincing imitation of Jimmy Page's guitar playing -- though they do screw the thing up at times. And the vocals are just plain funny -- they sing it in short bursts, and the double-tracking is hardly ever in agreement. Heh heh. Now it's Hey Fat Boy (Asshole). It's fuzzy and messy, and the vocals sound like they're shouted into a metal box. I can already tell it's going to me mindlessly repetitive and monotonous, but at least it's sort, and the sound effects are interesting. Wow, there are only three tracks remaining? I hardly saw the whole thing go by! Ok, I've already had enough of this song; I do know "Come here! You killed my mother" is a pretty weird thing to sing, but still...

Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy); the guitars are strummy and lightly flanged, sort of like a crossover between Led Zeppelin and prog rock ballads, and the vocals are kind of "serious" (in a parodic way, of course), and the chorus? Oh, goodness, this is CATCHY! As HELL! The lyrics are hilariously "serious" and inane and overblown, almost like a reprise of The Stallion, part 3. I love it. "Don't be afraid to clutch the hand of your creator"! Awesome. Great guitar playing. And the whistling near the end? Amazing. And it ends with an "a capella" chorus! This is MORE than just amazing; it's brilliant. And, to close the thing off, it's Poop Ship Destroyer, with a simple drum machine pattern, a moronic little "marimba" tune, sparse fuzzy guitar chords, and muttered vocals. The lyrics are kind of twisted, but funny -- I'm not a fan of scatology, but the "sci fi", space terms are so jarring in this context, it's brilliant. "Let's cruise past all the golden poo"? Unbelievable.

I'll be honest with you: I had listened to this album, I think, twice until now. The reviews and opinions I read on it were nowhere NEAR a consensus. All Music Guide gave a perfect score to it (the only one Ween got!). The first times I listened to it left me sort of, well, clueless. But NOW, listening to it, I'm convinced: it's a great album. It's SOLID, you know? Even if it's got some tracks I utterly don't care about, they at least are part of an overall picture, and this time it's a picture that I care about. GodWeenSatan: The Oneness was a mixed bag of brilliance, garbage and pointlessless, while The Pod was bogged down by unfortunate, LONG stretches of pointless mush, but this time around, the "mushy" bits are nicely integrated into a much more varied, interesting work. It DOES sound like a dead-end, though; it's the kind of album that just can't be built upon, you know? So, Ween took the logical, reasonable route and decided to upgrade their sound completely and rise into a new level altogether, and they did that masterfully.

What they did NOT do masterfully, though, was make a good album, so Chocolate and Cheese sucks. Hard. More on that later.

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