After several guise albums – 1996’s 12 Golden Country Greats and 1997’s progressive rock The Mollusk – Ween returned to eclecticism for White Pepper. The less explicit theme here is The Beatles; the title itself could be taken as a reference to Beatles’ album titles, while ‘Even If You Don’t’ in particular has a bouncy Paul McCartney flavour. The Beatles are hardly the only reference point – Dean and Gene Ween demonstrate their knowledge of popular music with a wide range of styles, including disrespectful tributes to seventies icons Jimmy Buffett (the preposterously decadent ‘Bananas and Blow’) and Steely Dan (‘Pandy Fackler’, which fuses Becker and Fagen’s jazz stylings and undercurrent of dark humour).
Aside from those two songs, White Pepper has a more serious facade; some of the songs could even be described as heartfelt, like the touching ‘Stay Forever’. Ween are credited as a five piece on White Pepper, and the musicianship is often superb; there are some great guitar solos while the rhythm section is fluid and creative. White Pepper is full of well written material, whether Ween are taking on punk (‘Stroker Ace’), country (‘Falling Out’) or pastoral psychedelia (‘Flutes of Chi’).
Much more than a series of genre exercises though, White Pepper is a cohesive and well executed album. With White Pepper, Ween are content to continue to create great music in the same manner as the bands who inspired them to make music in the first place.