I blew the chance to see Ween at Leeds Duchess of York* when I was at university, a far hipper friend asked me to come see them with him, I thought the name was crap and declined. Ho-hum, and so it goes.
But beguiled solely by the boobs on the cover of Chocolate and Cheese (and the fact that they advertised in Grand Royal magazine – the Beasties re-released this LP on their label) I bought it in May 1995 and never looked back. I was expecting a smart-ass ragged hardcore band, something a bit like NoMeansNo without the earnestness, nothing prepared me for what I got when I put the sucker on the turntable. There’s not much you can say to someone to prepare them for this sort of irreverent, profane assault on your brain. I mean where to start?
- Cheerful doo-wop? – Drifter in the dark
- Freak-ass voodoo pop? – Voodoo Lady (‘You drive me crazy with that boogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie-oogie”)
- Zappa-tainted sex-funk? – I Can’t Put my Finger on it
- Epic Mexican revenge ballad – Buenos Tardes Amigo
- Deranged simpleton pop? – Mister, Would You Please Help my Pony? (‘He coughed up snot in the driveway and I think his lungs packed up’)
- Tasteful guitar instrumental? – A Tear for Eddie
- Vengeful non-Mexican ballad? – Baby Bitch
- Breezy far-out 70’s pop? – Freedom of ’76
- Generally Terrifying shit? – The HIV Song
- 40’s style guitar shuffle? – Don’t Shit Where You Eat
We are not in the realms of the mentally sound here. I could go on and on, but I won’t. There’s a surprise lurking in every groove here, all of it brilliantly played. The production throughout is glossy and expensive sounding, very far removed from the scratchy shouting I had expected here. I reviewed Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band’s Gorilla LP a few days ago and there are very definite similarities here. Both LPs parody and pastiche a whole range of musical styles, both are serious and funny in places and would be an anathema to serious serious serious types. So there may be an argument to be made for Ween being a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band for a less gentlemanly age.
Approach with caution though, whilst wussy liberal me can take a certain amount of pretending to be an insensitive sexist redneck asshole for comedy purposes Ween push it at times – I can’t listen to the track ‘Spinal Meningitis’ at all, nothing at all to do with the condition but the song and its sound just set my teeth on edge. I find most of it very funny indeed though and not only funny but musically good enough to warrant its place in the 1537 (along with all my other Ween records) regardless.
If you’ve not sampled Ween and/or Chocolate and Cheese before my advice would be to get hold of ‘Voodoo Lady’, ‘Baby Bitch’ & ‘Buenos Tardes Amigo’ (my favourite), if you don’t like then don’t go any further – if you do, well there is a whole world out there for you.
Sometimes the discipline of the whole 1537 thing can be a pain, but today I sauntered into work smiling and humming ‘Don’t Shit Where You Eat’** to myself – it was by far the highlight of my working day, but that’s not Ween’s fault.
*legendary pub venue which played host to almost every decent band you can think of on their way up (Nirvana, Radiohead etc.) closed in 2000 to be replaced by a Hugo Boss shop – that’s progress for you. My friend Matt saw Courtney Love naked in there – 1537 fact!
**actually pretty sound advice, when you think about it.