Chocolate and Cheese
What a great day to review a bad album!... well, not really. Today would be a great day for SOMETHING, and certainly not to review a bad album—but that's what I gotta do, right?... actually, not really. I'm doing this because I want to. But don't question me on that, right? You can question me on the assessment of this album... oh, man, why do I have to do this? Couldn't I review a GOOD album, like Albedo 0.39 by Vangelis instead? I could, but that would break the flow. Matter of fact, screw Chocolate and Cheese: I'll review the Vangelis record, which in fact is a strong contender to my favourite album ever (except Amarok by Mike Oldfield really holds that spot).
Look, let's get this done quickly.
Take Me Away is a swingy rocker, with slightly processed vocals and jangly guitars. WOW, the production is far better than last time around. It now sounds like they're actually on a major label. And the song is snappy and upbeat. They're parodying something here, but I can't be sure what it is. Dean (I guess) has sung the same verse three times in a row. And now we get a fuzzy guitar solo. This is a pretty great way to kick off the album; it's a fun, though completely nondescript song. You know, it's neither very catchy, nor sufficiently funny to stand on its own, but it doesn't annoy me. Great ending, though! And now it's Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down). Actually, it isn't: I set Amarok to stop playback before that song, and I won't listen to it. I know, I'm supposed to walk through the whole album and review it in real time, but I refuse to listen to this track. Aside from being not at all good, it's painfully unfunny and preposterously stupid—it doesn't sound at all like the cool, smart guys who did Push th' Little Daisies and Right to the Ways and the Rules of the World! I know what "dark humour" is, I can more or less define it: it's a joke regarding death, sickness, or overall something very disturbing. That's not what this song is: it takes a child with a fatal illness and passes that AS THE JOKE. That's not dark humour, and it's not even humour at all. It's not even creepy, or interesting, or thought-provoking or anything at all: it's just trying to thrive in shock value and shock value alone. That doesn't cut it. And, of course, such an offensively idiotic song features a kid dying of meningitis. I don't wish either of them any kind of bad, but if they had lost a child to a disease like that, I doubt they'd ever write that song. It's not a matter of taboo: it's basic common sense. Honestly? Mr. Freeman? Mr. Melchiondo? Fuck you. BUT, let's get on with this album and skip straight to Freedom of '76, a quite faithful imitation of soul. I guess the only remarkable thing about this song is how precisely they emulate the sound. But so what? I think I stated this before, but the fact that an artist can perform different styles doesn't mean he's amazing and impressive: it means he's DECENTLY COMPETENT. It's the least I can expect from a good musician. Gene's singing is quite brilliant, but who listens to Ween for the singing? And should I care about the lyrics? Oh, what the hell. I Can't Put My Finger on It. Yeah, neither can I. It brings back some of the humour of the previous albums, with a cheap drum machine sound, fuzzed-out guitars and processed vocals, a stomping rhythm and weirdly blurted lyrics. Good track? No. Well, the "quiet" interludes in the middle add an interesting aspect to it just for being so completely out-of-place and out-of-context, and I guess that's the point. And, oh, there's an "Indian" instrument (synthesized) playing at the end. Side B kicks off with A Tear for Eddie, and it's at least a relief for being completely instrumental. Supposedly, it's a homage to Eddie Hazel, from Funkadelic. It's a pretty faithful imitation of the style (Funkadelic was one of their big influences), with that deep phasing effect, and if this is a genuine homage (which is unclear, of course), it's a good one. The distorted solo at the end is good. Roses Are Free is a piece of faux-psychedelic pop with a boppy, heavily electronic sound, randomly meaningless lyrics, and a cleverly written chorus. I don't know what to say, really: it's not a bad tune, and the lyrics are not at all bad, but what is to be found interesting here? They did the "fuzzy-psychedelic" sound much, much, MUCH better on Marble Tulip Juicy Tree, which was invigorating, fun and dynamic; this one just drags and marches along lazily. The instrumental break adds some energy, but the rest is just the same on and on and on.
Now comes in the best song in the album BY FAR: Baby Bitch somehow recreates very nicely that 60's acoustic ballad schtick with Lennon-esque voice and singing, and the combination of laid back and "thoughtful" melody with completely crude and nasty lyrics has never been as good as here. I guess. The "baby, baby, baby bitchhhhh" chorus is brilliant, and the melody is catchy! I hope it's NOT an actual attack at an ex-girlfriend. They namedrop Birthday Boy from GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, sort of like Bob Dylan namedropped Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands on Sara. Hehe, great. Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony came in and, ergh: more of that "hahaha look how funny it is to be creepy" shit. At least the melody is kind of catchy, which can't be said about Spinal Meningitis, which barely had any melody at all. Look, I just won't say anything because I have nothing good to say about this song. I'll just prepare the next paragraph for when side C starts off with...
Drifter in the Dark, a pretty spot-on imitation of "Barbershop" tunes. It's spot-on and... ... ... um... ... yeah, spot-on. Look, I KNOW we don't find many albums out there that skip from rock 'n' roll to psychedelic pop to 60's folk to soul to barbershop quartet, and maybe that's because NOBODY CARES. I could be listening to, I dunno, The Cure right now. You know Faith? It's 40 minutes of the same thing, but it's GREAT. It's AWESOME. It's the same mood, the same sound, but THAT DOESN'T MATTER. Okay, now it's Voodoo Lady, a very, very, very awful piece of crap with an "ethnic" percussion beat (synthesized, of course) with tuneless singing and idiotic lyrics; yeah, I get the "boogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie" is MEANT to be idiotic, but that alone doesn't make it good, does it? Erk, I hate this song; so completely dull and un-groovy! Oh, there come the fuzzy distorted guitars rising up and up and up and making noise all around. Yeah, the noise is cool, but unfortunately it's just a pale, pale ghost of a shadow of what the Mutantes were doing in Bat Macumba; it's so bad it doesn't even work as a joke. It's over now, and now it's Joppa Road, a quite funny and convincing parody of soft rock. The melody is obnoxiously repetitive, but this time it WORKS, because the jangly acoustic guitar and the "one-octave-apart" vocals are very, very spot-on. Yeah, Drifter in the Dark was also "spot-on", but at least this time it's a very relevant parody. Who cares about barbershop quartets, really? Now, this kind of sleazeball soft rock really deserves a comedic treatment, and it gets on. But yeah, it could be way shorter and the effect would have been far better. Now it's Candi. Sparse drum machine sounds bouncing left and right, a bit of bass guitar, a bit of guitar, a bit of muttering and NOTHING GOOD going on at all. Except for some of the noise, which is faintly entertaining. But the noise effects here are just trying to support the "joke"; what joke? I don't know. If this were one minute long, it would be okay, but it's actually four times longer than that. Eww. I almost wish I were listening to The Pod right now. Actually, I do wish. Man, WHY didn't they put the noise more on the centre of the song and get rid of the vocals? Damn. I dunno. I don't want to know.
Side D starts with Buenas Tardes Amigo, a song that gets all the critics wild with praise. It's a "spaghetti western" epic, seven minutes long, with solemn guitar strumming and Gene (maybe) singing slowly with a faint Mexican accent. It's awfully long, but it builds up as time goes on. It has a powerful solo and a "twist" at the end. I hate it. And it's followed up by the "amazing" H.I.V. Song. Do I need to say anything? No, it's NOT funny; this kind of "idiotic" and "offensive" humour needs EFFORT to work, and there's no effort here. What Deaner Was Talking About came in to wash the shit away, and yeah, it's a neat song. Not impressive or brilliant, but Gene's vocal delivery is good and the imitation of "heavenly" pop is very well done and all, but doesn't really achieve much more than what Pork Roll Eggs and Cheese achieved. But I won't complain. Now it's Don't Shit Where You Eat, a laid back acoustic tune. Okay, now it's over. Finally. And I complained about The Pod. Silly me! I didn't get their albums chronologically, but if I were doing that, I'd NEVER have guessed that they'd come up with such a wretched album.
Let's recapitulate: the good songs here are Take Me Away (sort of), A Tear for Eddie, Baby Bitch, Joppa Road and What Deaner Was Talking About. I'm not even sure about that list: some of those are only good when compared to the rest, because overall, they're just passable. Also maybe Roses Are Free and Don't Shit Where You Eat are not bad, but I don't care about them. The rest is either pure garbage or mindless fluff, and Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down) holds the honour of being the single most horrible song Ween ever put on a record (well, not including those cassette releases, but I never heard them and I don't think I really want to). Maybe it's the only Ween song I'd call "horrible"—I wouldn't call any of the other tracks here "awful". Either way, those "good" songs I singled out aren't even good to the point of me wanting to fish them out of the album for my enjoyment. Maybe Baby Bitch, but that's it. The rest can go to hell; including that album cover. What an ugly thing! Yeah, that's right: I'm not "offended" by it. It's just plain ugly, aesthetically unpleasant, and—of course—moronic, and NOT in the usual Ween way.
But stick around, guys. We're warming up.