Before this year, I only knew Ween as the guys responsible for “Voodoo Lady” and “The Rainbow“, the former since it was used on adverts and movie soundtracks such as Dude Where’s My Car? and Road Trip, and the latter since it appeared on Chef Aid: The South Park Album. When I was re-watching Grounded for Life around early March though, that it occurred to me to look up whoever was behind the excellent theme music for the show’s opening credits. When it transpired that it was Ween, I promptly investigated on Spotify and found myself discovering one of the strangest, most fascinating, eclectic, entertaining and bat-shit crazy bands I have ever had the privilege of hearing. It’s inspired me to frequently ask friends, co-workers and anyone who’ll listen, “Have you ever listened to Ween?” It seems baffling that they aren’t more talked about, given the quality of their musical output. Sadly though, Ween called it quits in 2012 after an illustrious 28 year career, chiefly due to Gene Ween’s desire to stay sober. I had, it seemed, missed the boat on ever getting to see them in a live setting.
Then surprisingly, on Monday of this week, Ween announced 2 reunion shows (and then a 3rd show) in Colorado in February 2016. In light of this news, while we wait to see if Gene and Dean Ween decide to take their reunion on a full scale international tour, I’ve decided to take all 11 Ween albums and rank them from worst to best.
11. La Cucaracha
Ween’s 11th and to date latest album was released in 2007. Gene Ween has since referred to the album as “a big piece of shit.” While it fares as Ween’s least satisfying album, it still has its highlights, and as an LP unto itself, it’s still quite enjoyable. On the lower end of the quality scale, “Spirit Walker” in particular is the one stand out track that fails spectacularly. It’s a fairly middle of the road song, with Gener’s use of autotune letting it down even further. As I’ve previously stated, there are arguments to be made on both sides for autotune and with Ween’s historical penchant for manipulating their vocals anyway, this would seem like an inevitability, really. Sadly, the effects on Gene’s voice make an already mediocre song almost unlistenable. “Sweetheart in the Summer” and “Lullabye” don’t fare all that much better either. On the other side of the coin though, “Woman and Man” is one of the best things Ween have ever done. With the exception of an unnecessarily long 2 minute intro, the song never outstays its 10 minute playing time with the band find themselves channelling a Led Zeppelin-esque instrumental frenzy, a la “Achilles Last Stand.”
Essential Songs: Fiesta, Friends, Woman and Man
10. Craters of the Sac
Allegedly a “semi-offical” album released online on MP3 only by Ween themselves, Craters feels more like an unfinished out-takes compilation in a sense; partly because three of the songs featured (“Big Fat Fuck”, “How High Can You Fly?” and “Monique the Freak”) would later appear on the unused tracks collection LP Shanola, Vol.1, the Shanola versions being executed in a much improved form over their Sac counterparts. It also doesn’t help Craters of the Sac that the only version knocking around on the ‘net is only 128kbps, which sounds…well shite by today’s mp3 and streaming standards. It’s not without its merits though, with Monique’s 10 minute closing emulating Prince, and Pawns of War aping Black Sabbath’s War Pigs.
Essential Tracks: Monique the Freak, Pawns of War, Put the Coke on My Dick
09. White Pepper
White Pepper’s title comes from combining The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album record titles together. The LP incorporates pop music elements across its runtime, most effectively accomplished on The Beatles inspired “Even If You Don’t” and album opener “Exactly Where I’m At”. While it was Ween’s most accessible album by that point, it almost plays like a precursor for their next album Quebec; an LP which took the dimensions of White Pepper and enhanced them to another plateau.
Essential Tracks: Exactly Where I’m At, Stroker Ace, Even If You Don’t
08. 12 Golden Country Greats
After releasing Chocolate and Cheese in 1994, an album which was Ween’s most professionally recorded work to date, the band decided to record a country only LP, once again showing their diversity in genre hopping, while paradoxically sticking to just one style of music on the record. Bringing in a plethora of Nashville country musicians to record the album, whilst still lyrically maintaining their bizarre (or “brown” if you will, or even if you don’t) sense of humour on the likes of “Piss Up a Rope” and “Fluffy,” 12 Golden Country Greats is one of thos albums that makes you think “Jesus, is there anything these people can’t do?”.
Essential Tracks: Piss Up a Rope, Mister Richard Smoker, You Were the Fool
07. The Pod
For those that don’t know, in the Ween world, “brown” refers to something that is essentially fucked up, but in a good way. To quote Mick the Spud from Reddit, “You know when you listen to a song and think ‘Wow, that’s brown as fuck.’ That is how you know it’s brown.” Ween’s second album proper, The Pod is as God damned brown as it gets. Fuelled by a severe case of mononucleosis contracted by both Gene and Dean Ween during the recording of the album, The Pod could possibly rival Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante as the single weirdest album I’ve ever heard. Given that is was recorded on a Tascam four-track cassette recorder, the album has a sludgy, incredibly lo-fi quality to it, with many of the songs executed at a slow, measured pace to boot.
Essential Tracks: She Fucks Me, Dr. Rock, The Stallion (Pt. 2)
06. Pure Guava
Following The Pod, Ween’s 3rd LP Pure Guava marked the last time the group would record on a four-track until La Cucaracha. Unlike GodWeenSatan: The Oneness and The Pod though, Pure Guava was a far more polished and focused record than its predecessors. Not to say it’s all that much less of a challenge to the listener. The weirdness shines through the album, particularly on tracks like “Hey Fat Boy (Asshole),” “Reggaejunkiejew” and “I Play It Off Legit.”
Essential Tracks: Push th’ Little Daisies, Big Jilm, Sarah
05. Shinola, Vol. 1
Shinola, Vol. 1 is, according to Dean Ween, a re-recorded collection of songs which Ween “regretted not putting on other records.” Ween wear their influences on their sleeves a lot more explicitly on Shinola. They channel Pink Floyd on “Did You See Me?” Thin Lizzy on “Gabrielle” and even Michael McDonald on the totally gay/totally amazing “Boys Club.” Then there’s the Craters of the Sac re-recordings, the highlight being “Monique the Freak.”
Essential Tracks: Monique the Freak, Gabrielle, Boys Club
04. GodWeenSatan: The Oneness
Before the release of their official debut album in 1990, Ween already had six years of recording independent releases under their belt. This could account for the fact that there are a whopping 29 tracks on GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, varying in length from the 9 minute 20 second reggae-funk noodling of “Nicole,” to the 23 second Springsteen pisstake “Old Man Thunder.” It could be considered as a younger, sillier relative to The Pod, its tracks sounding less muddy and more light-hearted and accessible. It’s also quite timeless: at 25 years old, the album cannot be slotted into any musical scene within the 1990’s or any other decade for that matter. It’s in a world of its own.
Essential Tracks: L.M.L.Y.P., Wayne’s Pet Youngin’, Fat Lenny
13 years after their debut album, Ween released a different beast altogether, probably their most normal record to date. Or at least as normal as Ween can get. Quebec was lyrically inspired by Gene’s divorce from his wife, with that resultant inspiration making for quite a dark record. It also ended up being one of their finest albums, and the last truly great Ween album for now, at least.
Essential Tracks: It’s Gonna Be a Long Night, If You Could Save Yourself (You’d Save Us All), Transdermal Celebration
02. Chocolate and Cheese
The first Ween album to be recorded outside of the four-track format, Chocolate and Cheese still maintained a healthy level of browness among the records 16 tracks. The album manages to flow in a relatively flawless fashion too, in spite of the diversity between songs such as “Buenas Tardes Amigo” and “The HIV Song.” With their 4th album, Ween had made their strongest LP to date, but their best work was still to come.
Essential Tracks: Voodoo Lady, What Deaner Was Talkin’ About, Freedom of ’76
01. The Mollusk
The Mollusk is a nautically themed album, released by Ween in 1997. The opener, “I’m Dancing In the Show Tonight” was a reworking of “Are My Ears On Straight?” and is essentially a show-tune, with Gener putting on quite a silly voice for the vocals. It’s an odd choice to begin an album largely using the sea as its theme, but then again this is Ween we’re talking about. The oceanic overtones are delivered in the form of songs like “The Golden Eel,” “Mutilated Lips,” sea shanty “The Blarney Stone” and the wonderful “Ocean Man.” The LP was even a huge inspiration for Stephen Hillenburg, creator of Spongebob Squarepants. It’s heartening to know that Ween’s best album was a key influence on one of the finest cartoons of the last 20 years. It also amuses me no end that an album with a song titled “Waving My Dick In the Wind” directly impacted an animated series like Spongebob.
Essential Tracks: Mutilated Lips, Ocean Man, Waving My Dick In the Wind
Hamburgers n’Heroin’s Essential Ween Playlist: