Sad news in the world of weird bands this week: Ween have broken up. At least according to Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman they have; Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo, heartbreakingly, seems to have been totally blindsided by the whole thing. “This is news to me, all I can say for now I guess,” Dean posted on Ween’s Facebook page. Poor guy.
We never got around to adding Ween to the Weird List sooner because, frankly, we’ve always classified them more as “quirky” than out-and-out weird—more left-of-center than, say, They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies, but part of that same continuum of late ’80s/early ’90s bands whose reaction to the bloviated mainstream rock of the era was to genre-hop with cheeky abandon. But we know plenty of our readers are big fans, so when news of Freeman’s breakup announcement hit yesterday, we decided to revisit their gargantuan catalog (extra-gargantuan, if you include all their self-released ’80s material). And you know what? These dudes were pretty weird.
The hardcore fans don’t really need a tally of all their wackiest moments, but for the punters, let’s include one anyway:
Their early, self-released cassettes, mostly recorded when they were still in their teens and getting baked in the totally adorable Philadelphia exurb of New Hope, PA (I’ve been there and, trust me, it’s like if Martha Stewart designed an entire town), included such immortal titles as Axis: Bold as Boognish and Erica Petersen’s Flaming Crib Death. They recorded everything on four-track and would frequently speed up or slow down the playback to achieve various creepy psychedelic and underwater effects, like on this track.
Their first major-label release, 1992′s Pure Guava, included such track titles as “Reggaejunkiejew,” “Poop Ship Destroyer” and “Touch My Tooter.” Amazingly, it also produced a hit single, “Push th’ Little Daisies.” When their label, Elektra, made them release a radio edit of the song that omitted the word “shit” from the lyrics, they replaced the word with a Prince sample and titled the new version “Push th’ Little Daisies (Shitless Radio Edit – No Shit).”
In 1996, they went to Nashville and made a country album. It was actually pretty good, too.
They followed that up in 1997 with The Mollusk, a nautical-themed concept album that many consider to be their best work—or at least their weirdest. It also inspired at least one great Lego-mation video.
They became one of the first bands to fully embraced digital music formats in 1999, when they released their next album, Craters of the Sac, exclusively on MP3.
They committed fewer acts of weirdness in the ’00s, although they did release their one and only full-on house track, the awesomely ridiculous “Friends.”
Even post-Ween, Dean and Gene have been keeping it weird. Gene’s first solo album under his real name, Aaron Freeman, is made up entirely of Rod McKuen songs. Dean Ween, meanwhile, has mostly gone fishin’—literally. You can charter a fishing trip with him on the Delaware River or off the Jersey Shore through Mickey’s Guide Service.
It’s also worth mentioning that arguably no other band, over the course of the past 20 years, covered more musical terrain. Ween songs range from punk to psychedelic rock to lo-fi bedroom folk to ambient tape loop experiments to country to reggae to bossa nova to funk to sea shanties to Led Zeppelin covers and back to punk again. They could seemingly do anything—and while much of it was done with tongue firmly in cheek, it was all executed with undeniable skill, which may be the single quality their fans love about them the most. Listening to the Ween catalog is like listening to a really good barroom jukebox after a really good bong rip.
We’ll leave you with “Push th’ Little Daisies,” which for me remains Ween’s crowning achievement (and yes, I know, that’s sacrilege to all you hardcore fans, but c’mon—how great is this song?). Also, how freakin’ cute are Dean and Gene in this video? They look like they’re barely old enough to drive.
We look forward to your Coachella 2014 reunion, guys!