The history of Ween, long story short, is that two junior high school buddies started dicking around with a DAT, named themselves – in a fit of junior high school inspiration – after a combination of “wuss” and “penis,” and somehow ended up with a record deal.
I think the the evolution of a typical band can be broken into three phases: first, the “raw” phase, where the band is still finding their sound. Some bands do their best work in this phase, sometimes because they just don’t know any better. Second, let’s call it the “classic” phase, where the band has learned what they do best. Last, the “experimental” phase, where the band gets bored with their sound and decides to try something new (which produces some of the best and a lot of the worst work of a lot of bands).
The thing about Ween is they seemed bored with their sound to begin with. They didn’t evolve so much as mutate, shape-shifting into every genre and making it their own. Hey, let’s listen to some music (warning: at their best, Ween can be crude, juvenile, and sometimes downright offensive. You should definitely not listen to it at work):
I’m starting at the end. This is a song only Ween could write. I love all the different iterations of Ween, but I feel like this is the song that justifies their existence (as if that were necessary). There’s a single line, which is dirty-verging-on-bratty, in typical Ween fashion, that expresses a despair in a way only Ween could: “The wheels fell off/ the bottom dropped out/ the checks all bounced/ I came in your mouth.” Just a beautiful, apocalyptic song.
Off of Pure Guava, one of their first three studio albums of curios, oddities, and (incidentally) great rock songs. It straddles the line between genre parody and homage. They could almost be a Bowie cover band here, if the band got too high, forgot the lyrics and the song and struck out on their own. Pitch-tweaked and warped to perfection, this was the first Ween song I ever heard.
Gene and Dean Ween (nee Aron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo) cite Prince as one of their biggest influences, and here’s the canonical example. A 9 minute jam based on the simple premise of oral sex.
A lot of their early work almost seems apologetic for how talented they really are – like they’re hiding behind in-jokes and cheap effects. I would say that as a criticism, but really it’s what makes them work.
In 1996, Ween did a country album. Yep. They’d always been consummate genre chameleons, but this was the first entry in a series of loosely-themed albums. Recorded with a cadre of Nashville legends (Ween provided only the voices), this was simply the best country album of the last 20 years. I’m saying that as someone who actually likes country, which is probably why I love this song so much. Unusually, there’s no irony to it, it’s just a good, old fashioned country song.
There’s too much great Ween music. I haven’t touched on hundreds of their best songs, but I wanted to keep this to a page. What are some of your favorite Ween