My reviews of albums by Ween.
1986: Erica Peterson’s Flaming Crib Death (???)
RYM credits this as a studio album but Wikipedia just credits it as one of their innumerable independent tapes. I have not listened to their tapes.
1987: The Crucial Squeegie Lip (???)
Another tape. Read my reviews of music from 1987.
1988: Ween II (Axis: Bold as Boognish) (???)
1990: God-Ween-Satan: the Oneness (9/10)
Ween’s official debut album – and the earliest I’ve heard as I’ve still never made it to their demos – remains, for me, their best pre-professional record. Everything that’s great about early Ween is here in spades: the dead-on parodies, the utterly bizarre sense of humour, the unrestrained goofiness.
Yes, there’s arguably way too much content but I think it’s curated more than we think. I still feel like this is a more consistent record than the next two, in terms of song quality overall. (Or I just like these songs better.)
Though I mostly prefer the professional version of the band – at least the ’90s version of that band – this is my favourite of their early records and I’d say one of the major lo fi records of its era.
My #5 album of 1990. Read my reviews of albums released in 1990.
1991: The Pod (8/10)
Ween’s second proper studio album is an onslaught of lo-fi weirdness touching on more genres than you can count, but unified in its deliberately inaccessible production and its self-contained world of in-jokes and references. Honestly, there’s nothing else like it… except for other Ween records.
I’d probably give this one higher marks if it didn’t come after The Oneness, which is the best of the their lo-fi records in my mind.
1992: Pure Guava (8*/10)
On some level, Ween must be commended for sticking to their aesthetic on their major label debut. The temptation to use a professional studio would have caused most other bands to significantly professionalize their sound. In fact, that did happen with Ween, only an album later. I suspect that early fans of Ween were relieved when they didn’t “sell out.”
But I am a fan of the professional Ween. I like their early stuff but I think they got better when they started spending as much time being professional (musicians and recording artists) as they did as parodists. I don’t see this record as the last “pure” Ween record (pardon the pun) but, if anything, a bit of a misstep on a trajectory from their amateurish, deliberately bad early music to their career apex as possibly the bests parodists in the history of rock music.
If I’m going to listen to early Ween, I’d rather listen to The Oneness or The Pod. This just isn’t among my favourites of their earlier stuff.
That being said, this was my first Ween record and does have a special place in my heart. When I heard “Mourning Glory” for the first time, it was probably the noisiest, most difficult piece of music I had ever heard. And so I am happy about its eye-opening affect on me. (Also, “Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)” is one of my favourite Ween songs.)
1994: Chocolate and Cheese (10/10)
This is the first “properly” produced Ween album, when the album is no longer drowning in their deliberately lo-fi sound, nor is stocked full of songs as practical jokes.
Instead, Ween’s full talent is on display and this time without a deliberately inaccessible sound to the recording. Ween tackles 16 different genres; every single song could convince you it belonged on a different record. Though all are great, a couple of them are particularly on, such as “Spinal Meningitis” (the creepiest Ween song ever), “Freedom of ’76” (where Gener makes his case for the best alternative rock singer of the ’90s), “A Tear for Eddie” and “Buenos Tardes Amigo.” These last three parodies are so on that you cannot tell any more whether it’s a parody or an homage.
This is Ween’s best album, their greatest achievement. It is also one of the great alternative rock albums of its era. I think it just doesn’t get the attention it deserves because these guys are considered a comedy act.
Ween albums (and albums involving Ween) from 1996:
12 Golden Country Greats (5/10)
This is the first time Ween decided to dedicate themselves to one genre and I guess that was a brave and admirable thing to do, especially given how fully they commit to the traditional country sound.
But the great thing about Ween – and, in particular, the professional version of Ween that emerged in the mid ’90s – is their unparalleled ability to convincingly genre-hop. Ween can sell so many genres on one record but when they try to sell just one, well…
I guess they only thing that would have made this record a classic is really, really great songs. But unfortunately the jokes aren’t consistently funny and whether this is homage or parody disappears to the point where it actually feels like a sincere attempt to be some kind of trad country comedy band. I prefer the regular Ween that only dabbles in country on occasion.
Z-Rock Hawaii (???)
I have never heard this.
1997: The Mollusk (9/10)
Ween ditches the single-genre approach of their country album for the “do everything” approach of their best records, this time (mostly) unified by an ocean theme.
The result is, for me, their second best album, showing off their ability to literally play any genre they want convincingly (while mercilessly mocking those genres more often than not) while not drowning in the deliberately alienating lo-fi production of their early albums.
It’s probably one of 2 or 3 records I would go to if I was ever trying to convince anyone to give Ween a listen. It’s not my favourite record of theirs but it’s close. [There are days when it’s absolutely my favourite.]
2000: White Pepper (8/10)
This record may mark the point where the parodies started getting so good that it began to get confusing as to whether they were being serious or continuing the satire. But I don’t mean that as a criticism. As usual, the musicianship is impeccable – and we’re now expecting great production, too, instead of that DIY haze of the early records – but the songs, though still jumping from genre to genre, appear to be getting more serious. And I don’t know if that was a deliberate attempt at improving that aspect of their writing, or if it was just a natural progression of emulating so many different songwriters over years.
In either case, this record contains perhaps their most accurate satire ever (or among their very best), “Bananas and Blow,” which should have caused Jimmy Buffet to explode if he ever heard it. And there are plenty of other good ones, even if I have a harder time playing spot-the-target this time.
Probably my third or fourth favourite Ween album.
2003: Quebec (???)
I listened to this when it came out and then I think one other time but never wrote a review. I didn’t love it at first.
2007: La Cucaracha (7/10)
I don’t know what was happening to me three years ago when I bought this album, but something about it didn’t sit right. I gave it my usual three listens and then put it away. I was unimpressed. But I really wanted to like it, so I gave it a 6/10 and hoped that I would discover its pleasures later. The next two-three times I listened to it – probably only because I was listening to all the Ween I have, and so felt obligated – I started to feel that the 6/10 was too generous. And I put it away again. I hadn’t listened to it in at least a year when I listened to it on Wednesday. I had already started my new review when “Fiesta” ended. It was a tragedy, this album, because it gave us the chance to listen to a once great band in the midst of mediocrity.
But something happened as I listened: I laughed. I laughed and I laughed. I don’t remember laughing before. I remember being confused, sort of like the first time I heard “Pandy Fackler” (as it was before I had really heard any Steely Dan). But this time I seemed to “get it” in a way I hadn’t. I heard lyrics I had somehow missed the first five times. My favourite is currently “She’s got a Master’s Degree…in fucking me.”
I don’t know how I missed all of this. I don’t know how I could decide that two guys like Ween had gone straight and had stopped doing parodies. I have no idea how that happened. But I have seen the light.
I still don’t think it’s as good as White Pepper, as that has some major highlights, particularly “Bananas and Blow,” which I think is one of their best ever (and I think it’s probably the last word on Jimmy Buffet). But this is so much funnier than I remembered. And even the songs that aren’t obvious to me have such inane lyrics that I’m sure they would be dead-on if I knew the targets.
I’m sorry I hated this for so long.
Read my reviews of music from 2007.