Aaron Freeman (Gene) met Mickey Melchiondo (Dean) in their eighth grade typing class in 1984. They made several homemade albums before their first official release, GodWeenSatan: The Oneness in 1990. For their fourth album, 1994’s Chocolate and Cheese, they signed with Elektra; they had access to a recording studio and formed a full band.
Ween released a string of worthwhile albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before running out of steam with 2007’s La Cucaracha. Gene Ween quit the band in 2012, launching a solo career and fronting a Billy Joel tribute show, before reforming the band in 2016.
It’s easy to overlook Ween; hits like ‘Push th’ Little Daisies’ paint them as a novelty band, and they’ve been overlooked by canonical works like 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Pitchfork’s decade album lists. But as a music geek, it’s fun to see a band with an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music present loving tributes and scathing deconstructions of a broad range of music.
Dean Ween is an excellent guitarist, while Gene Ween has a rich voice and his talents as a vocal chameleon allow Ween to access so many different styles. While humour is a focal point for Ween’s music, the songs stand on their own terms as enjoyable pieces.
Ween’s Five Best Albums
GodWeenSatan: The Oneness
Ween’s debut album is jam-packed with ideas, and it’s my favourite of their lo-fi, early albums. There are many directions explored – notably a lengthy Prince parody (‘L.M.L.Y.P.’) and some self-mythologising (‘Up On The Hill’). My favourite is the opening number, ‘You F***ed Up’, a memorable slice of hardcore punk.
Chocolate and Cheese
After three lo-fi albums, Ween signed with Elektra and made music in a proper recording studio. As usual Chocolate and Cheese is a grab bag of styles, although the clearer sound serves to make Ween appear even more eclectic. ‘Freedom of ’76’ is Ween’s take on Philadelphia Soul, with the duo stealing Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell in the Spike Jonze directed music video.
After a series of professional sounding major label albums, Ween promised fans a return to their early “brown” sound for 2003’s Quebec. Gene and Dean were partially correct – songs like ‘Happy Coloured Marbles’ and ‘Chocolate Town’ recall the group’s early, stoned work. But as always, there are all sorts of eclectic treasures, like the excellent progressive rock of ‘The Argus’, and ‘I Don’t Want It’, a 1970s AOR rumination about lost love.
White Pepper was Ween’s tamest album, smoothly produced and based around Beatlesque pop music and 1970s radio fare like Jimmy Buffett and Steely Dan. But White Pepper is full of excellent songs, like the gently psychedelic ‘Flutes of Chi’, and the straightforward pop/rock of ‘Even If You Don’t’.
Ween followed 1996’s 12 Golden Country Greats with a maritime-themed and progressive-rock flavoured magnum opus. The fun commences with the bouncy show tune ‘I’m Dancing In The Show Tonight’, and barely lets up until the closing strains of the Celtic ‘She Wanted To Leave’. Highlights include the twisted pop of ‘Mutilated Lips’, ‘ the progressive rock of ‘Buckingham Green’, and the crass Irish drinking song ‘The Blarney Stone’.