“Freedom of ’76,” “Piss Up a Rope,” “Push th’ Little Daisies”
Who Are They?
Experimental rockers who wow their cult fanbase with sheer absurdity.
Ween was formed in 1984 by Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo (or Gene Ween and Dean Ween, as you may know them). Since the two met in an 8th grade typing class, the name Ween (which is a combination of the words “wuss” and “penis”) is appropriately juvenile. But juvenile is not necessarily a bad thing.
Gene and Dean made some early home recordings, drawing heavily on influences like Syd Barrett, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Prince and Butthole Surfers. After gaining some local recognition in their hometown of New Hope, Penn., Ween became a five-piece and signed to Twin/Tone Records in 1989.
The band released two albums on the label (1989’s GodWeenSatan: The Oneness and 1991’s The Pod) before switching to Elektra Records and releasing Pure Guava in 1992. Pure Guava spawned Ween’s biggest single to date, “Push th’ Little Daisies,” which became a target on MTV’s Beavis and Butthead.
Ween tried something new with 1994’s Chocolate and Cheese. The album had a ‘70s pop/rock and soul feel to it and a much crisper production sound. The equally bizarre 12 Golden Country Greats and The Mollusk followed in 1996 and 1997, respectively. 12 Golden Country Greats had, you guessed it, a country theme. The Mollusk, on the other hand, had a nautical theme and incorporated just about every genre you can think of, including 1960s Brit-pop, sea shanties, Broadway show tunes and progressive rock.
(Fun fact: 12 Golden Country Greats only has 10 tracks. There are two possible explanations for this: the number is a reference to the dozen veteran musicians on the album known as The Shit Creek Boys, or Ween did, in fact, record 12 songs, but chose to leave two of them off the album and refused to change the title.)
Where Are They Now?
Unfortunately disbanded, but there’s always solo material to look forward to.
Ween started the new millennium with a new album (2000’s White Pepper) and an Internet radio station (WeenRadio). In 2001, the band started its own label, Chocodog Records, which is home to Moistboyz, Instant Death and Chris Harford.
(Fun fact: Remember that early episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob sings a song about tying his shoes? Ween wrote that song. The band also contributed a song to The Spongebob Movie called “Ocean Man.” Ween loves Spongebob, apparently.)
After releasing a couple more studio albums and a ton of live albums, Ween appeared to still be going strong by 2011. In May 2012, Gene Ween (a.k.a. Aaron Freeman) announced the end of Ween, but this was apparently news to Dean Ween (a.k.a. Mickey Melchiondo). Dean laughed it off and said, “As far as I’m concerned, as long as Aaron and I are both alive on this planet, Ween is still together.”
Unfortunately, Dean was dead wrong. Gene confirmed his departure from the band, claiming that he had to leave Ween in order to stay sober.
But Why Ween?
Honestly, this band just intrigues me and I wanted to take a closer look at its history and discography.
What Does Sam Think?
Okay, so here’s where I would usually gush about how awesome this band is and how much I love them (since I tend to choose bands/artists that I really like).
Unfortunately, this won’t be the case with Ween.
Now, if you’ve read this blog on a regular basis, you’re pretty familiar with my music taste. So you know that I love when bands get weird. For example, I absolutely adore both Primus and Butthole Surfers. Those are two incredibly creative bands that have fascinated me for a very long time. I understand why some people may not dig them, but I still love them.
I tend to lump Ween in the same category as Primus and Butthole Surfers, along with The Flaming Lips. To me, those are the four “weird” bands that people either love or hate. And, I’m sorry to say, I really just don’t like Ween.
It’s not that I don’t “get” this band—Ween is all about absurdity for absurdity’s sake. That’s not a bad thing. And the band’s music isn’t really the strangest I’ve ever heard—it’s still accessible to some extent.
I guess there’s just something about Ween that rubs me the wrong way. It’s difficult to put into words. This band doesn’t fascinate me the way the other “weird” ‘90s bands do. Primus has Les Claypool’s mind-blowing bass prowess. Butthole Surfers have an insane stage presence. The Flaming Lips have Wayne Coyne (arguably one of the most interesting frontmen ever). But I don’t see anything that really sets Ween apart, aside from its tendency to put out some genre-bending albums.
I’m not saying Ween is terrible by any means. I’m not going to look down on you if you genuinely like this band. The music just doesn’t do anything for me (though Chocolate and Cheese is pretty decent). Ween has a huge cult following, and I can see why. I just can’t get into it myself.
But I’m always willing to give bands another chance. Who knows? Years from now, I could put on Pure Guava, slap myself on the forehead and say, “What the hell was I thinking? This is fucking brilliant!”
-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s