Music News

The Ween Abides

My Lord," you might be saying, "Ween is still around?" And how, brother. Dismissed for two decades as a joke band, Ween has labored in sorta-obscurity while somehow simultaneously selling out shows and winning die-hard converts. How does the band do it? Easy: Ween rules. In fact, the Pennsylvania group is much better than your favorite band. Need proof? Here are ten reasons right here.

1. Two songwriters, no hissy fits.

Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo met and formed Ween in 1984 while in eighth grade. Although the pair has added members since, the two (now known as Gene and Dean Ween) still form the core of the group — and they don't hate each other. Also, even though they are fake siblings, there's no creepy incest vibe. Take that, White Stripes! This Makes Them Better Than: the Beatles, the Smiths, Uncle Tupelo, Hüsker Dü.

2. The band can change its tunes.

Take three tracks in a row from Chocolate and Cheese, Ween's best-known album, and you'll perhaps get a spaghetti-Western murder ballad ("Buenas Tardes, Amigo"), demented chanting ("H.I.V."), and a gorgeous pop gem ("What Deaner Was Talking About"). Some bands go their whole careers without one Prince-inspired ode to cunnilingus — I'm looking at you, corpse of Nick Drake — but Ween sometimes radically switches styles from chorus to verse. The band makes the mixtape for you. This Makes Them Better Than: the Ramones, Morphine, M.I.A.

3. It knows how to give it away.

In 2000, the constantly streaming internet buffet Ween Radio was named the third-best music website around by Rolling Stone — coming in second only to Napster and Gnutella (ask your older brother). While Metallica soiled its limo seats over lost revenue, Ween raked in fans by allowing show taping, trading, and streaming. Seven years later, the members of Metallica still haven't had to peddle their asses on the street no matter how many times I download "One" without paying for it. (Damn it.) This Makes Them Better Than: Metallica, Dr. Dre.

4. They don't go all puss-puss about selling out.

If you want a concentrated dose of Ween, check out "Where'd the Cheese Go?" in which a maniacally moronic keyboard riff drills into your skull while Gene Ween pleads to know the location of the cheese. They wrote it as a jingle for Pizza Hut. (Pizza Hut rejected it, of course, but that's their problem.) Dean has said the band hopes to sell the first song off 2007's La Cucaracha, a bit of cracked-out mariachi called "Fiesta," to Taco Bell. Ween has done movie soundtracks and sitcom theme songs, and yet they aren't "sellouts" because they don't give a shit. Neither should you. This Makes Them Better Than: the Doors, Tom Waits, Rage Against the Machine, Fugazi, the Dead Kennedys.

5. Badass guitar solos.

Deaner shreds. He wails. He's a disciple of Eddie Hazel (of Funkadelic fame), as he ably proves whenever he busts out the instrumental "A Tear for Eddie." When he gets going in concert, he hunches down with his head between his legs like he's taking dictation from his balls, and his playing sounds like it comes straight from the gonads. It's refreshing in a time when rock bands mostly sound like they have Ken crotches. This Makes Them Better Than: Iron and Wine, Arcade Fire, the Ditty Bops.

6. Totally weird, not totally pretentious.

When Ween pens a sludgy, noise-filled sound collage such as "Mourning Glory," you don't think it's showing off for the critics and the po-mo crowd. Instead, you just wonder about the particular drug cocktail that helped the band get to that level. Ween's just having a laugh, and if that means recording nonsense like "Mister Would You Please Help My Pony?" — you see, its lung's fucked up — or writing a five-song suite about being a "Stallion," it doesn't mean you have to start calling them horse-inspired geniuses. It's just music, after all. This Makes Them Better Than: Radiohead, Wilco, the Decemberists.

7. They recorded with the Jordanaires.

Not only did Ween record a full country album (1996's 12 Golden Country Greats) using legendary country musicians such as the Jordanaires but the band wrote the breakup song "Piss Up a Rope" and the drinker's lament "Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain" while sounding like classic Nashville. Despite the rated-triple-X lyrics, it sounds more like your grandfather's music than whatever Suburban Cowboy is claiming as authentic this week. This Makes Them Better Than: about everyone outside of Elvis, Willie Nelson, and Patsy Cline.

8. Ween's side/solo projects don't suck.

When the moon is full, Dean Ween transforms into Mickey Moist, one-half of the Moistboyz. The band sounds like the cartilage of your nose getting shoved into your brain — and that's meant in the best possible way. Usually, a side project is the result of a band member not getting to express himself musically, but in Ween's case (see number one), it's just that Deaner can't stop the rock. This Makes Them Better Than: the Police, Tool, Old 97s.

9. Ween still makes great records but doesn't neglect the past.

La Cucaracha is typical Ween, which, as we now know, is anything but typical. There's the German happy-house of "Friends," the nasty cock-rock of "With My Own Bare Hands," and, oh yeah, saxophonist David Sanborn laying it down smooth-jazz style on "Your Party." On the other hand, they aren't the kind of band to neglect their old hits live, so you can count on hearing "Voodoo Lady," "Push th' Little Daisies," or "Roses Are Free." This Makes Them Better Than: the Rolling Stones, U2, Johnny Cash.

10. You'll give a shit about them in five years.

Ween has 23 years of poop jokes, hacking paint, and kicking ass under its belt while more "serious" bands rose up, received their critical blowjobs, then were cast down by fickle scribes still wiping off their chins. In five years, when everyone with a funny haircut is rhapsodizing over neo-grunge or whatever, Ween will still be here, like the cockroach of rock that it is. This Makes Them Better Than: Animal Collective, Liars, whoever else is on Pitchfork's main page today.

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Jordan Harper