Review ·

Ween will always be Ween: a couple of shit-eating smartasses with an unending penchant for musical genre-fucking. Dean and Gene Ween are insincere, crass, drug-dependent and prone to bouts of misogyny and homophobia. They will always be this way.


And that's fine with me, because Ween is one of the best bands around and has been for a long time. The members' sense of humor, musical wizardry and impeccable knowledge of the great American rock 'n' roll songbook have turned them an unstoppable force, with a fan base that includes jam-band douche bags, Southern Lord masturbators, and just about everyone in between. 


Ween's more recent albums, such as 2000's White Pepper and 2003's Quebec, have seen the group inch away somewhat from the over-the-top drug-addled weirdness that defined early works such as the band's 1990 debut, GodWeenSatan, and its follow-up, 1991's The Pod. But that doesn't mean that Ween stopped recording such material. Witness Shinola, Vol. 1, an odds-and-sods collection of twelve unreleased studio tracks. This is certainly not Ween's most accessible work (that would be 1997's The Mollusk), but it neatly encompasses everything about the band that makes it so oddly likeable in the first place.


Therefore, among other things, you get intricately constructed one-joke stoner anthems ("Tastes Good on th' Bun," "Big Fat Fuck"), jaunty odes to the company of men ("Boys Club"), Thin Lizzy-style upbeat rockers ("Gabrielle"), oddly affecting satirical love songs ("Someday"), and Prince-influenced R&B sex jams ("Monique the Freak"). Not everything hits the mark -- "Israel," for example, is nothing more than a rabbi speaking over a schmaltzy instrumental track -- but it all fits within Ween's expansive musical universe.


To co-opt some of Ween's own terminology, Shinola, Vol. 1 is very "brown." That is to say, it's experimental, unpredictable and more evocative of their earlier records than later ones. It's reassuring to know that the band plans to continue releasing such material. Unlike Beck, who "evolved" from his Ween-like early days (the pre-Mellow Gold cassette tape called Golden Feelings, 1994's Stereopathetic Soul Manure) into an air-brushed, focus-grouped hipster, Ween remains honest enough to let it all hang out, all of the time. Nearly everything the band releases is worth listening to, and I'm already psyched for Shinola, Vol. 2.


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