Thursday, 22 October 2009

Annotated Discography: Ween (part 9)

First off, I'm cheating: I started playing the album BEFORE I came here to post. Why? I didn't really plan to post, but I decided to DO something and make my first post after, what? two months. TWO months. Anyway, the album:

Shinola, vol. 1

This is an "assorted bits" album put together by the band, apparently supposed to be the first in a series which currently contains only one instalment. Another "hilarious" joke from the band? I'd guess not: they're probably amassing more material for a second volume. This album comprises left over tracks from several sessions, a few new tracks and altered versions of songs released on other alternate releases. I don't want to go in details here because, honestly, it doesn't matter. What matters is the music. And in terms of music, this is probably their most inconsistent to date. "Duh, it's an odds and ends album!", you say. Well, but these are odds and ends with wildly varying quality, I say. QUALITY, see?

So, anyway, I've only heard the first track so far. Tastes Good on th' Bun, as far as I can tell, is a Pure Guava outtake. Surely sounds like it, and, well, for it to have been left off from an album like that, you can guess what it sounds like: meandering, pointless, and trying to pass itself off solely on its "quirkiness" and whacky sense of "humour". GOODNESS, does this overstay its welcome. Alright, NOW we're going fully real time. Off we go with...

... Boys Club, a parody on overly "gay" pop tunes. Yeah, you could guess that. Okay, the sound they're getting is really convincing and funny, with an EXTREMELY "slick" production, squeaky backing vocals, a groovy chord progression and a fun vocals impression by Gene Ween. Again, it probably goes on for about 20 iterations of the chorus too many. Am I noticing a trend there? Oh, well, it's not a bad effort at all. Now, I Fell in Love Today, a... blues send-up? Very slow and plodding, an insistent guitar line, and with a "soulful" vocal delivery. Yeah, so the joke is a lot more subtle here, but we're still trudging on "obvious pastiche" territory -- which already sets the standards lower than those on the three previous albums. Okay, so Quebec had two obvious parodies at the start, but then it turned the table completely around with Transdermal Celebration (man, what an AMAZING song, that! Can I stop this album and put that song on instead?... no?). Oh, I like the effect on the guitar solo here! It's a shame that we only get so little of those clever guitar effects on songs like these! Ok, guys, I already heard you can do a pretty good imitation of this stuff, now can we PLEASE go on? Which sessions did this get culled off? This is not a new one, is it?... oh, Wikipedia says it is. Crap! You'd better set the standards higher now!

Hm, now it's Big Fat Fuck... ok, I asked for too much. This was released before on an Internet "release" called Craters of the Sac, and that version was seven minutes long. WHAT?? Ok, so this track is at least actually amusing in a way: it doesn't try to be anything other than gross, and not only in terms of lyrics. The whole song sounds slowed down, especially the vocals. Sort of goes back to The Pod, but with actual humour. Yeah, it's gross, repetitive, moronic humour, but it's at least imaginative. Wouldn't want to hear this for seven minutes, though, please, no. And it stops, and we're off into Gabrielle, a Thin Lizzy parody as far as I read. And it's great! It's catchy, tuneful, energetic, and they get a really good sound going with a neat vocal impression and a hooky chorus! Finally, it's getting really good! I like the lyrics, too: it doesn't go out of its way to shove the "joke" in your mouth, and it works even better because of that. "Nobody's perfect, baby, and I'll always love you anyway"? Darn yes! Simple and effective. Great guitar solo, too. Fun playing around with the tremolo effect, too! Yeah, I just like it that much, and I don't even need to say this is the best track here so far.

And now, we go into Did You See Me?, and from the first seconds I can already tell this is going to be something else entirely: slow, strummed acoustic guitar playing those cliché "mysterious" chords, probably pulled from 70's Rush albums. The bass comes in -- ok, they're going for a Pink Floyd vibe, it seems, and so far they're nailing it to a tee. Haha, from the FIRST note I can already tell Dean has got his David Gilmour mode 100% engaged. I'm loving it!

... guys, please, I have already heard this album several times before. I'm only speaking like this for literary effect.

Okay, this just IS Pink Floyd: the string-y keyboards are on, the heavy guitar is doing its thing and the drums are heavier. And the whole song is heavier now! Wow, we're pretty much back in the 70's in less than two minutes. So far, no vocals, and this thing RULES! Ok, it's quiet now, and the vocals are in. Encoded, muttery vocals, and with a weird, bubbly effect going on underneath, like something out of an early Residents album. I like the vocal melody. Ok, this is the best song so far. Well, now we're into Genesis territory. Maybe not Genesis, but they're doing something hilarious, which Mark Prindle calls "Medieval rock" break which is a 100% apt label. Funny as hell! DOO-DOO-DOO! DOO-DOO-DOO! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, DOO! Great stuff. Now with the acoustic guitar coda. Awesome. Apparently this came from the The Mollusk sessions, and it's up to par. It is outtake-ish, but perfectly up to par.

How High Can You Fly?, and we're still on the 70's, with a hum-along guitar melody, and a VERY tremolo heavy vocal singing the song title over and over. The guitar melody sounds like something they wrote for White Pepper, but ended up replacing with the far superior Flutes of Chi. The spoken voice is also great. This is moronic humour, but it's inventive, and far better than the first four tracks. I like it. Transitions are in, and from the first seconds I can tell it's a parody on "adult contemporary", and they do an amazing job at nailing the airy, reverb-laden sound and cheesy keyboards. Great stuff! Colour me impressed, guys! This is really good stuff! And even the song itself is quite catchy. Great guitar work, as usual. And now, it's Israel, probably the most bizarre piece in here. But this is the GOOD kind of bizarre: not the thing supposed to shock and awe you, but the thing to leave you genuinely puzzled. On surface, it's a parody of soft, cheesy jazz music, with a melody played on saxophone and sounds of sirens, applause and the guys impersonating preachers. And there are backmasked speeches! Okay, hold on...

No, they're just fragments of the normal speeches played backwards. Yeah, I never checked it before, and only did now for documentary purposes! The synthesized "doo doo" sound is extra funny! I like this track. Its oddness is sort of captivating. The voices repeating "Israel Israel Israel" at the end is weirdly hypnotic. Now, it's The Rift, which opens up with "sci-fi" sound effects and gives way to a strangely groovy drum pattern. It's very slow and "spacey", and the vocal melody is sort of catchy. The lyrics are silly. Oh, shut up, already. This crap is almost 6 minutes long. Is it part of the point to leave me so uninterested? Okay, I can see you have your "ooooh, yep!" in place. And the guitar effects and the sci-fi noises. That's okay. Now just go away already. Good, it's going away. Finally. Now let's move on.

And we're into Monique, the Freak. Right away, it's great: a Prince parody, with a solid groove, a sticky guitar riff, those clean guitar strums and, ick, those vocals are so spot on. So spot on it's sick. And a vocoder on the chorus. Of course! Perfect. It's already fun as hell. The lyrics are so moronic and so spot on, it's hard not to get along with it. Ah, and I LOVE the backing vocals! Brilliant stuff. The whole thing just gels together and works wonders. And again, that Vocoder. Brilliant. Yeah, but NOW is the great part, the instrumental break with that awesome guitar riff. And the guitar solo. Yeah, the guitar solo! Great sound, great playing! This would go on for 10 minutes on Craters of the Sac, and it could as well go on here! Ah, and the backing vocals on the break! Also great stuff. Really, this is great from start to finish, alright. You know? I can almost say this track is too short, even at nearly 6 minutes, and even with that great guitar work near the end. But they kept the best for last! At least best in terms of humour, because Someday might be one of the very, very best comedy pieces in their whole catalogue. And I say comedy in a GOOD way: good musical comedy is not easy to make, and this is fantastic. The imitation of cheesy, starry-eyed, Disney-esque romantic ballads is spot on for the first half, but then it's BRUTALLY deconstructed after that: atrocious "chorus", dumb lyrics, a deeply intoned voice speaking back the chorus lyrics, and the whole thing is off! Amazing. And given that twist alone, the absolute stupidness of the whole song comes to life, bringing along with it pretty much every other song in the genre. Even the "orchestration" near the end becomes brilliantly, pathetically hilarious. And, EVEN still, the song is beautifully written. It's definitely not a joke for the sake of the joke: it's well constructed humour.

Anyway, that's an amazingly strong ending for the album, with two fantastic tracks back to back. I still hold Did You See Me? as an easy favourite, and everywhere else, well... it's a mess, you can see. Though the low points are almost all at the beginning of the album. Don't know if that's good or bad... Either way, this album is a necessity for Ween fans, while casual fans need only to fish out the best tracks in here and dump the rest, I guess... Feel free to disagree. I'm here to be disagreed with!... sort of.