Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) met Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) in their eighth-grade typing class in 1984. They made several homemade albums before their first official release, GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, in 1990. Their fourth album, 1994’s Chocolate and Cheese, marked a change in course, recorded in a proper recording studio. It properly showcased the duo’s talents. Dean Ween is a virtuoso guitarist, while Gene Ween has a rich voice – his talents as a vocal chameleon allow Ween to access an eclectic range of styles. While humour is a focal point for Ween’s music, the songs stand on their own terms as enjoyable pieces.
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; their best-known song, ‘Push th’ Little Daisies’, portrays 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; they present loving tributes and scathing deconstructions of a broad range of music.
Ween’s Albums Ranked
#10 La Cucaracha
Ween’s final album is disappointingly flat – Gene Ween later stated that “overall that was a big clue Mickey and I were finito.” There are only a handful of tracks that meet the standards of the band’s previous records – Dean rocks through ‘My Own Bare Hands’, while the lounge of ‘Your Party’ is fun.
#9 The Pod
Ween’s second album is beloved by many hardcore fans. It’s the band at their “brownest”, captured on a primitive four-track recorder at the Pod in Solebury Township, Pennsylvania. At 77 minutes it’s simply too much for casual fans, even though it’s worth digging through for Ween classics like ‘Captain Fantasy’, ‘Awesome Sound’, and ‘Pork Roll Egg and Cheese’. The album cover is iconic, a parody of The Best of Leonard Cohen with a nitrous oxide powered bong.
#8 Shinola, Vol. 1
This collection of outtakes is eligible for this list since it’s all material that’s not on their studio albums. It’s a grab bag from different eras of Ween – ‘Tastes Good on th’ Bun’ dates back to The Pod era, while ‘Someday’ is from the Quebec era. It’s inconsistent, not surprising for a bunch of leftovers, but ‘Monique the Freak’ is another ace Prince homage.
#7 Pure Guava
Ween’s major-label debut is another lo-fi effort, compiled from two tapes that the band made for friends. It enjoyed a wider audience, largely due to the song ‘Push th’ Little Daisies’. The stoned-sounding novelty song was featured on Beavis and Butthead and cracked the top 20 on the Australian single charts. The highlight, though, is the Prince homage on ‘Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)’, while there’s a foray into country on ‘I Saw Gener Crying In His Sleep’.
#6 12 Golden Country Greats
Surprisingly, Ween followed Chocolate and Cheese with a country album. There are only ten songs – the twelve in the title refers to the number of session musicians utilised. It’s fun hearing the band marry straitlaced country arrangements to wildly offensive lyrics like ‘Piss Up A Rope’ and ‘Mister Richard Smoker’.
#5 GodWeenSatan: The Oneness
Ween’s debut album is jam-packed with ideas and it’s the most entertaining of their early, lo-fi albums. Their self-mythologising is fun on songs like ‘Up On The Hill’. GWS is impressively diverse, from a lengthy and filthy Prince parody (‘L.M.L.Y.P.’) to the hardcore punk of the opening ‘You F***ed Up’.
#4 Chocolate and Cheese
After three lo-fi albums, Ween created Chocolate and Cheese in a recording studio. As usual Chocolate and Cheese is a grab bag of styles, although the clearer sound makes 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.
#2 White Pepper
White Pepper is Ween’s tamest album, smoothly produced and devoid of foul language. Musically, it’s inspired by Beatlesque pop music and 1970s radio fare – there are sharp parodies of Jimmy Buffett and Steely Dan. It’s Ween at their most accessible, and it’s full of excellent songs – the gently psychedelic ‘Flutes of Chi’, and the straightforward pop/rock of ‘Even If You Don’t’. There’s still enough weird stuff to satisfy hardcore fans – the warbling tapes of ‘Ice Castles’ and the heaviness of ‘The Grobe’.
#1 The Mollusk
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’.
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