Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My Brain

First comes that country sound, a smidgen of slide, a hint of banjo, a soupcon of fiddle, a diddle of dobro; the music does everything your brain tells you that country music does.  The singer sings clear about drinking too much whiskey and waking up with too many regrets and a hangover.  There’s a line about having spent the dog food money that amuses but you’re in Tennessee now and all is normal, until …

And if you really love me baby
Help me scrape the mucus off my brain

It doesn’t matter how many Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins, Kip Paxtons, Charlie McCoys, Bob Wrays and the (Goddamn!) Jordanaires you have on your album, the essential strangeness of Ween will always shine through the cracks, creating some cracking cognitive dissonance.  Welcome to ‘Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My Brain’, welcome to Ween 12 Golden Country Greats, for a while the greatest (and only) country LP in the 1537.

Ween 12 Golden Country Greats 01

Wanting to make an all country album Ween contacted their friend, producer Ben Vaughn* who fixed up sessions at the legendary Bradley’s Barn in Mt. Juliet, TN and who proceeded to ransack his contact book for the finest session players available, who didn’t mind recording with ‘a brother act who do some blue songs’ – the session list reads like a who’s who of the Tennessee scene.  The fact that Gene Ween and Dean Ween aren’t brothers and that several of the songs here aren’t even very blue, was by the by.  In fact so strong was the assembled cast that the Ween boys only non-singing musical contributions were two guitar solos near the end of the album**.

Ween 12 Golden Country Greats 04 (2)

The first time I played 12 Golden Country Greats I got the joke, but I hankered after the more varied over-the-top Chocolate and Cheese Ween.  That’s pretty much where I am today with it too.  I don’t tend to like music without a sense of humour and so a band driven by it like Ween, especially a clever, talented band like Ween can be manna from heaven for me.  For fuck’s sake people – this is the band who inspired the creation of SpongeBob Squarepants!!^  However, I think they miss the mark a few too many times on 12 Golden Country Greats for it to be a real favourite.

Ween 12 Golden Country Greats 02
That is the expression of a horse that seen things that no horse should ever see.

I am nothing if not a positive chap though and so here are my highlights:

  • You Were The Fool:  The straightest and most beautiful song here by far, ‘hippy country’ as Ben Vaughn described it. He was there, he was right.
  • Fluffy:  They just invented a new sub-genre Mogadon Dog Country (MDC for short).  I have no idea why it isn’t currently massive.
  • Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My Brain:  Not enough songs have ‘mucus’ in the title. True story.
  • I’m Holding You:  For including the line ‘I’m trippin, writhin’, squealin’ and pukin” in an otherwise totally straight country love song.
  • Japanese Cowboy:  Mostly for stealing the melody of Vangelis ‘Chariots of Fire’ and making it into a country song!!^*

Ween 12 Golden Country Greats 05 (2)

As almost always Ween sail to close to the edge for me on a couple of numbers, the quite frankly homophobic ‘Mister Richard Smoker’ for one *^ and the unpleasantly sexist ‘Piss Up A Rope’, which does have the best tune on 12 Golden Country Greats by far and was an improbably released as a single.  I love the anarchy of Ween but I always come back to a line of Kurt Cobain’s when asked about the Dwarves, which was something to the effect that,

it is funny when folks pretend to be reactionaries and rednecks and parody it all, but there comes a point if you do it too much and you spout that kind of bile too often, you may as well be one of them’.

Ween 12 Golden Country Greats 03

At its’ very best 12 Golden Country Greats creates an unsettling cognitive dissonance between a certain type of anodyne radio country and some pretty strange lyrics and it does collate a few very cool moments, but even with bonus points for the LP cover featuring what looks like a cowboy having a stroke AND additional massive 1537 bonus points for only having 10 tracks, it just doesn’t hit home enough for me.  Although I suspect that the real reason might just be the fact that I don’t like country and western very much, so maybe I was the fool.

I think I spent the dog-food money
But he’ll love me just the same
And if you really love me baby
Help me scrape the mucus off my brain

845 Down.

Ween 12 Golden Country Greats 06

*a man who recorded firm 1537 fave and the world’s best-ever-LP-recorded-entirely-in-a-car, Rambler 65.

**there is an excellent account of it all right here that I thoroughly recommend.

^true story.  It was their Mollusk album that swung it.  There are reputedly many Ween references in the early episodes, which is damned cool.  I mean yeah, yeah, Neil Young and Bobby Dylan, that’s all good but you have never inspired a seriously tripped-out children’s TV series set under the ocean^^ did ya?!

^^to my knowledge.

^*Vangelis sued and has a co-write on later versions of the LP.

*^although it does include one of my all-time ever rhymes:

Mister richard smoker
You’re an Ono Yoker

29 thoughts on “Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My Brain

    1. Not at all, it struck me at the time and I’ve semi-remembered it ever since. He’s totally right too – someone beign an asshole ironically, is still someone being an asshole at the end of the day – I think Descartes said that once.

  1. the “Chariots of Fire” rip is funny. here’s the story from the producer:

    “We cut the record, and I decided, if we’re going to go through with this concept where I’m taking an outside act to Nashville, and they’re not even going to play on their own record, then I also have to be the guy on the last day of cutting, where I say, “I don’t hear a single. You guys gotta go back to the hotel and write something and come back, ’cause this record’s not complete.” Which, I felt, actually, but it was also part of the joke. I truly felt there should be a song that they wrote in Nashville, inspired by being with the players. I wanted it to be the first song [on the record], and in typical Ween fashion, they started with a ballad instead of an uptempo number. Anyway, they went back to the hotel and they wrote that song real quick, on hotel stationary, and brought it back. I looked at it and said, “This is great. Let’s cut it right now.” We cut it real quick and the whole time I’m thinking, this melody sounds a little familiar. I never really figured it out until we finished the record and handed it in to the label.”

    entire interview is worth reading

    1. Now you’re talking! Try The Mollusk, my personal fave is Chocolate & Cheese, but I think Mollusk may be the better intro to them. Good luck!

  2. Had no experience of Ween before I read this but if you want some genuine country music that is funny and sometimes provocative with the lyrics, try some David Allen Coe.

  3. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that I like this one. Uncomfortable tunes aside, I would throw this in my top 5 Ween albums.

      1. Indeed! You’ve got me right in the mood for this one, y’know…

        You can wash your arm in a pool of mud; you can chop a tree t’prevent the flood…

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