The Over/Under: Ween

WEENOVER2500

Even as teenagers spazzing around in their suburban Philadelphia homes, Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo) and Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman) offered a giddily irresponsible, snot-fueled antidote to the tiresome PC earnestness that characterized popular music throughout the 1990s. Ween began in the mid-’80s as a lo-fi bedroom act, producing a handful of unhinged four-track cassette releases and rapidly moved up the indie-label chain—first Twin/Tone, then Shimmy-Disc—to land an inexplicable major-label contract with Elektra for the group’s third “official” album, 1992’s remarkable Pure Guava. Since then, on both label-attached records and a dizzying stream of self-released recordings, Ween has delighted in nothing more than vivisecting pop music forms and twisting them into new shapes—or pushing them far beyond their logical endpoints. In addition to their astonishing talent for mimicry and parody, however, Freeman and Melchiondo are also (and this is a point that’s rarely been made with sufficient emphasis) musicians—and students of pop music—of the very first order. Anyone who’s heard the group tackle note-perfect readings of ’70s sap rock with a straight face (such as Billy Joel’s “Honesty” or Wings’ “Band On The Run”) has to recognize that for all its smartass, for two decades Ween has been one of the smartest, most exceptionally gifted bands in rock. That may seem an odd claim to make about a group so energetically dedicated to absurdist goofing, but to sink into Ween’s catalog is to nuzzle the brown underbelly of pop-music history and hear what the top-40 hit parade might have sounded like after a steady diet of whippets, Ballantine’s scotch and carry-out chimichangas. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of debut GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, here’s our take on the most overrated and underrated songs in Ween’s catalog. Hail the Boognish, mang.

:: The Five Most Overrated Ween Songs
1. “Piss Up A Rope” (1996)

The idea behind 12 Golden Country Greats, Ween’s honky-tonk record, is unalloyed genius. The band recorded the album—10 songs total—in Nashville, with a staggering roster of Music City session legends, including the Jordanaires and Charlie McCoy. To date, it’s Ween’s only album-length genre exercise, and though it wisely runs shorter than most of its other records, there are a couple of moments where the joke wears thin. “Piss Up A Rope,” one of the straighter chuckles on the record, is one. The punch line here is a send-up of the macho swagger of he-man, my-woman-done-me-wrong braggadocio, but after the cheeky first verse, the rest of the song falls a little flat. Unlike other tracks on the record—the equally bratty but smarter “Mr. Richard Smoker,” for instance—the song doesn’t do much to unpack the genre other than stretch its conventions to the limit. At its best, 12 Golden Country Greats pushes country forms into uneasy territory. Though it’s a good joke, “Piss Up A Rope” is one that passes quickly.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

2. “Ocean Man” (1997)
The slower demo version of “Ocean Man,” heard here, is actually a little more interesting than the album cut, heard on aquatic concept record The Mollusk. Sluggish and watery, the vocals seem to burble up from the sea floor, coating the track with a brackish slime that’s missing from the final, cleaner version. The Mollusk is filled with excellent songs, as are all of Ween’s albums, but especially if you hear it in sequence, “Ocean Man” doesn’t quite meet the standards of the best work on the record. That it’s become one of the album’s better-known songs, overshadowing more interesting moments like “I’m Dancing In The Show Tonight” and “The Golden Eel,” is something of a mystery.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

3. “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)” (1994)
Chocolate And Cheese contains three of the most profoundly upsetting rock songs ever recorded: “The HIV Song,” “Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?” and “Spinal Meningitis.” By any standard of measurement, that’s an incredible hat trick—and one no other band could pull off, in my estimation. “Spinal Meningitis” gets nosed out by the other two, but mainly on style points. The lyrics of “Mister” paint as disturbing a picture as you’ll ever want to imagine in pop music, while the happy carnival music of “HIV” initially makes the jaw drop in disbelief. If your reaction moves to laughter, even on multiple hearings of the song, it’s an uneasy, shaky laughter. The silly “smile on, mighty Jesus” pun in “Spinal Meningitis” blunts the force of the song more fully than the others, and on multiple listenings, it’s the only one of the three that doesn’t get uglier the more you hear it. Granted, that’s like sporting the least horrifying medical abnormality in the sideshow, but who puts these three deranged songs on a single record and doesn’t expect us to rank them?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

4. “Bananas And Blow” (2000)
White Pepper is Ween’s least perverse record, which may be the reason “Bananas And Blow” comes off less successfully than it might. On any other album, the song would have been a light entry, a straightforward Jimmy Buffett take (Freeman has called it a Bob Weir riff), but on White Pepper, nestled among distinctly milder genre-twisting tunes, the easy parody is made to carry more weight than it’s able to support.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

5. “You Fucked Up” (1990)
Here’s the starting gun, according to the “official” discography: the opening shot on GodWeenSatan. At just more than 90 seconds, “You Fucked Up” is beloved by fans of Ween’s rawer, punkier side, and it’s a great leadoff track. But what was remarkable even about Ween’s earliest recordings was the band’s deconstruction of genres. In that context, “You Fucked Up” isn’t the most creatively grating cut on the album. I’d rate “Papa Zit” or the second half of “Birthday Boy” above it.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

:: The Five Most Underrated Ween Songs
1. “So Long, Jerry” (1996)

Recorded during the 12 Golden Country Greats sessions and originally released as the b-side of “Piss Up A Rope,” “So Long, Jerry” is one of Ween’s most moving performances, another aspect of the band’s art that rarely gets the mention it deserves. As much as they love exploding genres, they’re fans of the genres they explode (the joke wouldn’t work otherwise), and “So Long, Jerry” is as heartfelt a song as they’ve ever recorded. Reportedly a tribute to Jerry Garcia, who died the year before the release of the album, “So Long, Jerry” is a criminal omission from its final track list. And while I’m yapping about it, so is “I Got No Darkside,” which also dates from these sessions and is available on several unofficial compilations.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

2. “With My Own Bare Hands” (2007)
You could flog a thesaurus for a solid hour and never come up with enough adjectives for this cut from La Cucaracha, one of the most punishing tracks in the Ween repertoire. The song hits like a car crusher right out of the gate. There are several wonderful things about “With My Own Bare Hands,” but among my favorites are the way Freeman bum rushes the line “I’m gonna be your lawnmower/And cut your fuckin’ grass” and the liberated cock-rock nonsense lyric breakdown that occurs in the fourth verse. It’s a rare song that can send up its genre with equal parts love and smartass. Every time I hear Freeman break forth with “take a shit on the bitch and fuck hooba-jooba,” I weep with happiness. That’s just me. Oh, and also: Melchiondo’s guitar solo sticks it in and breaks it off.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

3. “Pollo Asado” (1991)
Full disclosure: I’m one of those Scotchgard-heads who finds The Pod to be Ween’s career high point, no pun intended. I love everything about that goddamn record, from the snotty ripoff of Leonard Cohen’s The Best Of cover art to the murky aura of the music, which sounds like it’s been coated in cough syrup. When I’m laid up on the couch with a high fever, this is my go-to album, and nothing on it sets me to laughing harder than “Pollo Asado,” a stoned-out sendup of a Mexican fast-food order set to a faux-Muzak score. Without giving anything away, the foozle-headed character voices and the senseless transaction they’re embarked on elevate the song from stoner skit into absurdist gibberish. It’s a hysterical performance and one that reveals why producer Kramer latched onto Ween the moment he saw them play live.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

4. “Cover It With Gas And Set It On Fire” (1993)
Remember up there in the overrated section, when I talked about disturbing pop songs? I forgot to mention “Cover It With Gas,” which I first heard on double-disc live release Paintin’ The Town Brown, but which is heard in its studio version (from the Skycruiser EP) here. I haven’t the foggiest notion what this track is about, but it sums up Ween’s penchant for terror rock better than any other song I can think of. The repeated shriek of the title, the siren that wails throughout the song’s three minutes, the squalling car-crash sound effects—this is one of the most upsetting soundscapes in all of alt-rock.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

5. “What Deaner Was Talkin’ About” (1994)
After the squeal and throttle of “Cover It With Gas,” how about one of the shiniest, poppiest songs in the band’s playbook? “Pork Roll Egg And Cheese” from The Pod runs a tight second, but “What Deaner Was Talkin’ About” is likely the band’s most Beatlesesque moment; Dean Ween has identified the Beatles as his favorite band (just ahead of the Butthole Surfers), and you can hear that love in the song’s bright melody and sweetly sung vocals. And in a songbook filled with snark and darkness, “What Deaner Was Talkin’ About” stands out as a charming, affable moment—not the only one in the band’s catalog, certainly, but one of its friendliest and most congenial.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

—Eric Waggoner

This entry was posted in THE OVER/UNDER. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

25 Comments

  1. Clint
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    now that i read who your favorite 3 bands are..you have no credibility, at all!!! what a joke, you are an embarassment to ween fans…never go to a ween show, or wear a ween shirt or write a ween review……you failure…misfits are lame, and atari teenage riot…..just by name alone…….suck.

    i hope you get hit by a bus soon

  2. Screw you
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Im not hostile, you just gave me a good reason to explain to you why your writing fails on so many level, but yes its my opinion, and when the same opinion is held by the majority of the response, its indicates some legitimacy, whereas you and your friends article are independent opinions that apparently, no one except yourselves, “buys”.

    just face it, youre wrong. just admit it.

  3. ClintJCL
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    o.k., im wrong. i suck, and me and eric dont deserve to have the freedom to state our opinions because we are invalid…..

    sorry ween forum, we are wrong.

  4. ClintJCL
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    I for one am not too stoned to express it. and at a concert, you arent writing an article that states what eric wrote, so why would someone spew hate at a concert if there was no reason to. now if you acted like a moron, which im assuming youd probably do, id let you know that you are lame and you are ruining my high.

    Dont discredit the criticism due to being high, you just simply suck, just face it.

  5. ClintJCL
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    dont abuse your freedom to state an opinion, if the opinion is invalide, keep it to yourself. bu them again, you wou you dnt know wahats valid..so just keep quiet, youve demonstrated that your unqualified to write an educated opinion.

    dont do it again. dont listen to ween, stop writing, kill youself. you failed.

  6. x, y, and z
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Boy, what a horrible article.

  7. angel dust
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    great moments in rock journalism……youre kidding right?

  8. Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Everyone here is a total d bag. A real Ween fan wouldn’t even be trolling this crap site….I just stumbled upon it while looking for magnets for my fridge. Boosh

  9. Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    This is totally out of control. Fire the guy cause you don’t agree with him, are you kidding? Kill themselves? Are they a real Magazine?

    If you’ve never read Magnet, I’d suggest you educate yourself before flying off the handle. The article called the Over/Under is actually fairly clever. In addition to the somewhat obscure reference to either an over/under shotgun or the Over/Under in sports wagering (both of which are probably a coincidence), it allows one journalist to give his opinion of a band or singer.

    It’s always interesting. I don’t care if it’s your favorite band or a group you hate. Most of the time, the article imparts you with a perspective of the way the rest of the society of music nerds perceives your precious gem of an artist. If you don’t agree then so be it. If that’s an emotional issue for you, you might consider getting some therapy.

    Most of the world has never heard of Ween and since they started as a gag band for stoners most people never will. Sorry, it takes a lot of PR to get around your lineage. Also having purchased three Ween albums in my life the only thing that I can tell is that they’re talented, interesting but in the end treat music as a gimmick that must be sold rather than sincerely shared.

    At any rate, It is about the opinion of the writer and not an election or census. GET OVER IT.

  10. Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    The average ween fan is a stoner who works in a kitchen or copy shop. So what it sound like to me is that one of them who can read finally sobered up long enough to read a review. Or maybe they just were cruising the web (the one place they don’t get high) and finally found some press about their precious Ween.

    I happen to like the band and think the criticism was fair. The ‘forum’ should be grateful that their little gimmick band is getting any press at all.

  11. Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I have been a Ween fan for too damn long, but I have always had a problem with their idiotic fans. I have not been to one of their shows in years for this reason.

  12. Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    “Also having purchased three Ween albums in my life the only thing that I can tell is that they’re talented, interesting but in the end treat music as a gimmick that must be sold rather than sincerely shared. ”

    You couldnt POSSIBLY be more wrong. really. For one thing they allow bootlegs of every show to be taped/traded for free. Read ANY interview with Ween and they are not writing parodies, skewering music or making goof-rock gimimick tunes. Their shows are furious rock that would make Eddie Hazel proud. I could go on, but you obviously dont understand them anyway. Its not a coincidence that 95% of ween fans have taken offense to the list. KINDLY FUCK OFF.

  13. zandar
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I am laughing my ass off right now imagining, for instance, Talking Heads fans coming out of the woodwork giving you the insane reaming Ween fanatics are giving you. “What you mean “Houses in Motion” is overrrated? Would you even know polyrhythm or an oud if you heard one? EH, FUCKTARD????!?!111111″

    this is the best fun I’ve had in a comment thread for a long time. Thanks, weeners!

  14. Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    “As much as they love exploding genres, they’re fans of the genres they explode (the joke wouldn’t work otherwise)”

    This isn’t true. Some rock critic said something along these lines once and like so many other speculations, it’s become an empty echo, whenever congratulating or excusing a band for doing genre piss-takes. I think it’s most often said with the intent of making the critic feel good about admitting they “enjoy” something that is somehow less than “real” or “authentic.” Which is silly.

    I do agree though, that The Pod is the shining light.

  15. KD
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Jesus people, Ween sucks. Get over yourselves.

  16. Andrew the Noisy
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Holy crap. I always wondered what band’s Over/Under would cause an invasion of weeping fanboys scattering “Aha!” ‘s and lame insults like handkerchiefs dropping from the hands of 19th-century belles groping for their smelling salts.

    And it’s Ween? Really?

  17. opinions are like as
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    thats put this whole thing into perspective. first of all, some idiot posted the link to this article on the ween forum, thinking everyone who enjoy reading the review.

    however, the majority felt the article was lousy for x, y, and z reasons. in reality, no one really cares about the author or what he wrote except him.

    its fun to get a rise out of people. it was a success. the more you react, the more harassment you will receive. the thing is, when the truth (how much the article sucks) is revealed to those who are deceived (the writer of the article).
    They feel forced to defend their position.

    in the end, everyone has an opinion. its just best not to voice your opinion because a) stating your opinion is really just an act of selfishness (who really cares about other’s opinions). And when you opinion has alot of misinformation, it makes the writer sound even more lame.

    get over it, your article is lame, ween forum are a bunch of conformists, the entire enterprise of writing reviews places the writer on a pedistool, and therefore you deserve all the rebuke you are receiving.

    you didnt do a good thing by stating your opinion.

  18. AAroN
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Dude. I was born listening to ween and i will probably play ween at my funeral, but even great bands have their failures… but the fact that most of their failing moments (with the exception of what deaner was talking about) are considered underrated to you still remains a mystery to me. dont get me wrong, Cover it with gas, pollo asado, and with my own bare hands are ok, but they just stand at ok… Havent you ever heard of Mutilated Lips, Exactly WHERE Im At, The Grobe, Marble Tulip Juicy Tree, Dr Rock, or Springtheme? These songs are madly underrated. And I mostly agree with the overrated list, but how bout Push the Lil Daisies? This is just one teenage kids opinion, but the next time you write about Ween. keep this in mind- AK

  19. deiter heinrich
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    why would dean and gene pose for such a stupid photograph and what exactly does the photography “say”?

    id appreciate your responses

  20. Paul Provence
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    why do people get so worked up about an article on ween?

  21. Ween Forum
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Cerulean, this is the Ween Forum. Please stop posting on me. You are an idiot.

  22. ween forum
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    fuck you, ween forum, you bunch of sheep.

  23. Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Haha, people tried to pretend they are me. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And wow, are their responses lame. I think Ween fans are more sensitive than Helen Keller’s clitoris!

  24. Posted March 11, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    “in the end, everyone has an opinion. its just best not to voice your opinion because a) stating your opinion is really just an act of selfishness (who really cares about other’s opinions)”

    That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. How was the copy shop today.

  25. Scott
    Posted February 2, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Gene doesn’t sing With my own bare hands. Just saying if you’r gonna gush about the vocals you should know it was Deaner, and it’s pretty fucking easy to figure out. You’re a journalist?

One Trackback