Let me harp on about Ween

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runcible
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Let me harp on about Ween

Post by runcible » Sat Mar 17, 2018 6:24 pm

I don't really know where to start with these guys. I always knew about them but the snippets I heard years ago weren't terribly memorable. In fact on first listen Ween kind of don't come across as anything that remarkable.

Our own Bza mentioned he came across a copy of their White Pepper album & ended up sending it to me. From the word go it actually sounded pretty damned good. The opening tune Exactly Where I'm At was/is a complete triumph. Polished production & with a really expansive sound it made quite an impact. As did most of the rest of the album although the jump from one genre to another took me by surprise.

I explored some other Ween albums: Chocolate and Cheese, The Mollusc & Quebec & while I found good songs a lot of the music didn't particularly gel with me. But I felt there was something I had missed. After all this band could adapt to such a variety of styles: punk, speed metal, doom metal, funk, soft rock, reggae, rock, pop, psych, calypso, soul, AOR, folk, easy listening... And any given Ween album could switch styles from one song to another on a whim. On White Pepper, for instance, they switch from calypso to speed metal in a matter of seconds.

Then I read that they had gone to Nashville, found seriously good musicians & made what is, in essence, a full blown country album in 12 Country Greats. I tracked it down & it's excellent. Pure country, tongue in cheek country & some totally humour-driven songs.

I then went about finding pretty much anything to with Ween. I discovered they have a completely obsessive fan base, and they also produce absolutely incredible art work & posters. I found a bottomless well of outtakes, live recordings & obscure stuff from their online Browntracker fraternity. Lots goes against studio techniques I never liked, particularly the sped up or slowed down vocals which they use a lot, also fake foreign accents and humour-based music - all again used quite a bit. They can produce songs that appear to take a light-hearted view on stuff like HIV and other medical conditions and diseases, but from what I've read the band actually take that stuff pretty seriously and their take is along the lines of reverse-psychology.

I've been on a Ween binge for months now. Bizarrely after immersing myself in the outtakes area for so long I returned to The Mollusc, Chocolate & Cheese & Quebec - and they sounded totally different. The songs I had hesitated over were transformed and now sounded fantastic.

It's worth mentioning Ween's pastiche songs. In their catalogue they totally nail copycat tunes in the style of Thin Lizzy (Gabrielle), Motorhead (It's Gonna Be A Long Night) , Lee Perry (Mango Woman) , Grateful Dead (So Long Jerry) , Funkadelic (A Tear For Eddie) & Prince (Ambrosia Parsley). All sound completely authentic.

They also throw in ridiculous Beavis & Butthead humour on songs like Waving My Dick In The Wind, Piss Up A Rope, Pass The Bong, Put the Coke On My Dick & Booze Me Up & Get Me High. It should be rubbish but somehow it works, even with silly titles like those.

I wouldn't say their music is ground-breaking or even that original as it drags in so many styles & genres, That said their delivery and musical approach is completely unique – quite simply there can’t be another band on the planet like them. I find it hard to even classify Ween but I guess you would simply call them 'alternative' although the live stuff has more of a ‘rock’ sound.

We now have some terrific framed Ween posters at our place. Some of the posters are crazily valuable as they get renowned artists to do stuff for them & will deliberately copy famous art by other bands. The Emek pastiche posters of the famous Stanley Mouse Grateful Dead and the Rick Griffin Hendrix posters are magnificent - and originals are worth shitloads

So I can't explain the appeal, I just know I'm well & truly hooked. And I'm aware that the array of live stuff I’ve barely started on is still out there. Sadly I'm told they have no intention of coming to Europe - that's frustrating as they are by miles the band I most want to see live. I believe the live shows are something else too - the YouTube clips look fantastic.

So there you are. Had to share that and cheers Bza for opening up this warped but somewhat magical musical avenue.

Anyone else down with the Boognish?

LunarTunes
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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by LunarTunes » Sun Mar 18, 2018 2:35 pm

What a great read! And so happy to hear you've immersed yourself in the world of Ween and come out the other side with a new appreciation of their music. I was lucky enough to be introduced to their music around the time of their "Pure Guava" (just before it came out, actually, I believe). And I've been a fan ever since. Interesting to me that you started with "White Pepper". And although I love the more warped stuff they were doing on their first couple of albums when it was was just the two of them, "White Pepper" is my favourite album of theirs. I absolutely love all the songs on it and the range of styles they cover. I know Ween is not for everyone, with the humour and silliness which, mixed with the genre-jumping, qualifies them as a novelty act to a lot of folks. But I've never seen them that way. I've always thought of them as a couple of dudes who love music, love making it, love having fun with it and enjoy trying whatever the hell they feel like when they're instruments are out and the tape is rolling. Also, copious amounts of drugs certainly contributed to some, if not all, of the madness. It also helps that they're really good musicians! And yes, their live shoes are something else, stretching on for around three hours on a good night and reveling their musicianship in all it's glory -- giving them a rep as a "jam band" for Deadheads wondering where to go now when they wanna get high and dance about. Overall, I can't think of another band like them.

As for nailing different styles, I think they do a great Floyd on this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMq-5PFsCc

runcible
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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by runcible » Sun Mar 18, 2018 7:13 pm

Nice one! Yes indeed - this tune is very Floydy as you say!

White Pepper is also still my favourite. They do some Beatles pastiche on that too. It's more consistent I find, but I've discovered so much more by revisiting their other albums. I don't really 'get' La Cucaracha but I think I need to listen to it more. But so many of the songs I didn't get'on Quebec and The Mollusc sound great now..

I played Pure Guava the other day which sounded better than the previous few listens. There is some quite challenging material on that album but the good stuff is fantastic. I haven't even heard The Pod or God Ween Satan yet. I know these are less obvious and take some work to get into. Plus I've barely scratched the surface of the live stuff that's out there. As a a Deadhead I totally relate to the links between the 2 bands, both in terms of exploring the music but also the obsessive fan base who offer endless recordings without the band objecting.

What's interesting is that Ween are a band you could easily just skip over as it seems you have to persevere before the real magic shows itself. I can't really explain it. Songs like Mr Will You Please Help My Pony sound almost infantile until you look under the surface and discover the components of the track are actually highly complex. Humour in music has never been very interesting for me but Ween get away with it somehow.

I'm assuming you've read the 33 1/3 book on Chocolate and Cheese? I just finished that and wish someone would write books on all the Ween albums as it was seriously fascinating.

Anyway, my music life is certainly more fun now it's brown! Cheers dude!

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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by TheWarmth » Mon Mar 19, 2018 6:19 pm

I saw Ween live last year and they were a lot of fun. I had no idea until I went to the show (friend had an extra ticket) that their crowd is the same as you'd find at a Phish show, which admittedly put me off a bit. I'm not a big Ween fan, but I have an appreciation for what they do and genuinely enjoy some of their material.

LunarTunes
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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by LunarTunes » Wed Mar 21, 2018 2:18 pm

runcible wrote:I don't really 'get' La Cucaracha but I think I need to listen to it more. But so many of the songs I didn't get'on Quebec and The Mollusc sound great now..
I'm with you on that one! The only tune that comes to mind right now from that album is "With My Own Bare Hands" -- another one in their rich history of songs with lyrics meant to offend -- er, I mean "challenge" -- their listeners (i.e. probably not a song you'd play for someone you're trying to convince that Ween is actually a terrific band and not just a bunch of jokers). Just had a look at the tracklist again and nothing else rings any bells to me as far as being a keeper. On the other hand, it does include "Friends" which, when it came on from my iPod in the car the other day, my wife said "This may be the worst song I've ever heard". I didn't argue since I felt the same way (Note To Self: Remove "Friends" by Ween from iPod). As for the other albums you mentioned, I think I was thrown by the "12 Golden Country Greats" album so I didn't pick up "The Mollusk" when it came out. When I did, I liked most of it and now I'd say I LOVE it and recognize it as one of their best. You've likely discovered "The Mollusk Sessions" which the band released for free on the internet in 2007. If so, then you've heard this song which I absolutely love and don't know why it was left off the record:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K65dRRa3GoM

"Quebec" had a lot going for it and, while not as good as what came before, does contain some tracks which I rank among their best (including the grand riffing of "Transdermal Celebration" and the classic-Ween sounding "novelty" song "Hey There Fancypants")...
runcible wrote:I played Pure Guava the other day which sounded better than the previous few listens. There is some quite challenging material on that album but the good stuff is fantastic. I haven't even heard The Pod or God Ween Satan yet. I know these are less obvious and take some work to get into.
You're right about the first two records! For me, though, that's the Ween I first got into and remains very close to my heart. It really was just two friends getting high, grabbing some instruments, rolling tape and putting down whatever they felt like at the time, purely for their own amusement. So it's a hodge-podge of styles and you either get on board with their vibe or you're left wondering just what the hell you've been listening to. But if I were to only keep three Ween albums, "The Pod" would be one of them and it's the first one I ever bought. Some of the songs are downright Ween classics and were live staples for years (e.g. "Dr. Rock" and "Captain Fantasy"). And to bring this around to Spiritualized, Jason included the hilarious "Pollo Asado" in one of his Breezeblock sets [see here: https://spiritualized.band/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8118]. Knowing this at the time brought me much joy because not only did it mean Jason was listening to Ween, but he also picked one of my favourite tracks to play and one that showcases their stoned humour rather than skirts around it...
runcible wrote: I'm assuming you've read the 33 1/3 book on Chocolate and Cheese? I just finished that and wish someone would write books on all the Ween albums as it was seriously fascinating.
Well, that's a fair assumption but I actually haven't read that! I will seek it out ASAP. Thanks! Wasn't aware it existed. Gonna have to revisit the 33 1/3 list to see what else I've missed...

I hope you somehow get the chance to see them live! I foolishly missed them a couple of years ago when they played a festival just down the street from me. I wasn't interested in anyone else on the bill, really, so felt the price was a bit steep to see Ween play a shortened "festival" set. Well, they ended up playing for two hours with a pretty great setlist (and nothing off "La Cucaracha") so I regret it now and won't make the same mistake if they come through town again...

Stay brown, dude ! :D (since there doesn't seem to be a Boognish Smiley)...

runcible
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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by runcible » Thu Mar 22, 2018 9:10 am

I love the country album. Some of my favourite Ween songs are on that - Japanese Cowboy, Pretty Girl, Mister Richard Smoker, You Were The Fool are all superb. I get why Ween fans hesitated though...

And Kim Smotlz is absolutely fantastic, but so are loads of outtakes and b-sides I've heard. Songs like Homo Rainbow, the other Argus, Beacon Light, Hello Johnny, the Rift, Now I'm Freaking Out, Linda (The Sexy Dancer). I've got those Caesar demos plus Shinola vol 1.5 and Shinola 2. I also downloaded a 4 volume thing of rarities and b-sides from Ween's official 'Browntracker' forum. I still yearn for more of that stuff!

Quebec and The Mollusk are largely faultless for me. I've found the songs I wasn't that into sound great now I'm fully brown. Transdermal Celebration is just glorious - that guitar solo is one of Deaner's greatest moments. I've also come round to Chocolate and Cheese, which I'd previously thought far less interesting. It's an amazing album for me now.

Your view on Pure Guava (and a lot of the material before) is spot on. They do sound like some stoneheads mucking around and making weird and often fun tunes. They take more listening and time although there are some excellent and obvious sounding songs too.

If you're as big a Ween fan as you sound that book is absolutely essential reading. I was completely absorbed while reading it on the bus on my way to work with the album itself as a soundtrack. There's serious detail on that album plus lots of other Ween music. Some of the stories - such as them recording the only tune they apparently dislike, Candi - are hilarious. Grab yourself a copy!

The connection between them and Phish started because Phish covered the classic Ween tune Roses Are Free. Ween heard about this, checked it out and hated the Phish version. They still go on about how they hate 'jam bands' like Phish despite the 2 bands becoming good friends and Ween recording the Jerry Garcia tribute 'So Long Jerry'. Interesting as the Dead are perhaps the ultimate 'jam band'! Because of Phish Ween began playing that song live regularly and apparently still do. They started appearing at various hippy type festivals because the Phish crowd got into them, but they hated all that stuff and were bored shitless by the noodling aspect of the jam bands they encountered at such events. So the Phish thing is flaky at best.

A Ween live show is on my bucket list. One day...

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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by davedecay » Wed Apr 04, 2018 3:20 am

If you like the guitar in Transdermal Celebration, read this story:

https://www.jambase.com/article/dean-we ... tanas-gear

My first Ween show was in 1992 at a tiny bar in Philadelphia called Khyber Pass. Saw many other great shows there, too. I think at this time they were still using a drum machine.

I have seen them a few more times since then. Tickets aren't always easy to get now, since they are more popular than ever since they re-formed after a brief hiatus.

2006 with Sonic Youth and Flaming Lips was a great show.
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I have tons of live material, studio out-takes, and most of the CDs and vinyl, though I'm missing some of the harder to get stuff.

To best appreciate the Mollusk, listen on headphones. Seriously.

Here's another linked story worth reading: https://www.stereogum.com/1951136/weens ... niversary/

And once you listen to “I’m Dancing In The Show Tonight," check out the song that inspired it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75BAVEWfMiA
(peek at some of the comments)

runcible
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Re: Let me harp on about Ween

Post by runcible » Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:10 pm

Cool Santana tale there. I didn't know that..

I have so much Ween on my mp3 player I've had to create different playlists for the outtakes. Still lots out there.

As for headphones.... I treasure my work commute time on the bus in Leeds. Headphones on, book open & zone out for 45 minutes. So I've been through Ween's catalogue many times on headphones. I happen to have Quebec - now possibly their finest according to me - on right now as I type. It all sounds good though!

One day I'll see them live. Well, fingers crossed...

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