After 25 years Ween calls it quits

I spent much of the week disconnected from the world at large and after a particularly rough Friday, June 1st I succombed to the medicine of sleep at an uncharacteristically early 8 PM and slept the deep, restorative sleep of the over-worked. When I awoke this morning I logged into the virtual world and toured around my usual sites in an attempt to see what I’d missed over the last several days. It was on one of my favorite of those sites – a marvelous blog entitled Heaven is an Incubator – where I came across the news that one of my all-time favorite bands, Ween, had called it quits.

Not a good way to start the day.

It’s no surprise really, and although it saddens me deeply I must say that if this is what Aaron Freeman, aka Gene Ween needs to do at this stage in his life, then I am happy he made the decision and support it fully. Still… it’s been five years since WEEN’s last album proper – La Cucaracha – and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there is a very large part of me that really wanted one last record before this finality which, if I’m being honest, is really not that much of a surprise.

If you’re a music lover and you don’t know WEEN I implore you to go back and look into them. Regardless of the fact that there may be nothing newly written going forward, A) there is such a prolific back catalogue of music that has been released that it could keep a new fan vastily entertained for years and, B) there is no doubt such a back catalogue of music that they have not yet released but most likely will via their website that there will hopefully NEVER be an infinite lapse of old-to-them-but-new-to-us music from this marvelous group.

News of the break-up apparently came from Aaron, which you can read here, and although Deaner and the boys haven’t weighed in publically yet I’m sure that the family that is the band behind the scenes are more interested in each other’s well-being than  in contradicting Aaron’s decision to “retire Gene Ween”.

……………

It was my very good friend Mr. Brown who turned me onto WEEN back in the early 90’s. I have to admit that at first I was unable to exactly process the group’s music, primarily on the at the time current Pure Guava. Later, it was Mr. Brown who gave me the now well-worn copy of Chocolate and Cheese that worked its way into my heart and opened up all of their previous releases for me, so that I acquired dubbed cassette copies of their back catalogue rather quickly and spent many, many intoxicated nights with Mr. Brown and the old school crew ingesting the absolute manical genius that was up until that point, the band WEEN.

Fast forward several years – by then I very much considered myself a hardcore WEEN devotee and thought nothing the band did could surprise me anymore.

I was wrong because something miraculous occurred with the release of their next album. Low on funds I gathered a few CD’s I owned but deemed acceptably sacrificable for the cause and drove to the Record Swap that at the time occuppied a place in the strip mall at 159th and Harlem on Chicago’s Southside. It was Tuesday, June 24th and WEEN’s new album The Mollusk had just been released. I grabbed a copy with my trade-in credits and sped home with just enough time to ingest some marijuana and give the new record a thorough once over before going to work the evening shift at the local ups facility.

The record played and after the mock  Sesame Street eeriness of the opening track I became enraptured in a first play-through that left me gasping for breath. Something had happened – but what I could not at first process. The record was… different. Serious almost. Where was the WEEN I knew?

This wasn’t a complaint, more a mouth-watering revealtion. The Brown Boys had transmorgified from inhalant-friendly sterophile miscreants into… into… well, if the song Buckingham Green was any indication, into one of the greatest modern-era rock and roll bands alive.

The way my memory has it – which I’m not entirely sure is accurate – I skipped work and headed over to where my good friends and fellow WEEN-fanatics Sonny D and the aforementioned Mr. Brown were gathered to spend the evening ingesting the new album. All of us felt the same, with Buckingham Green literally being the talk of the new record. Realistically this sudden evolution from fuck-around songsmiths to A-level rock musicians wasn’t really all that ‘sudden’. The band’s previous effort, 12 Golden Country Greats – which seemed like a departure at the time – was a sophisticatedly accurate modern-rendering of all of the elements that made Sun records-era country great, just streamlined through the browness of the brothers Ween. But now with The Mollusk, and then on to 2000’s White Pepper the band had indeed done the same with the aesthetics of rock and roll, becoming one of the most mature and musically amazing rock and roll bands to grace the international music community in some times, their calbre changing from Neutral Milk Hotel indies to almost Who-esque, stadium-sized giants through the ceaseless touring, recording and growing they did both together and individually. Once the live line-up (which back in the day had been Dean, Gene and an ADAT or tape machine as back-up band) solidified with the personal of Claude Coleman, Jr. on drums, Glenn McClelland on keys and Dave Dreiwtiz on bass, grander aspriations within the band’s music and MO began to come to the forefront and although they never lost their warped sense of humor or harder-edge leanings (which can both be very easily demonstrated and enjoyed on 2007’s With My Own Bare Hands) WEEN had become something more than the obscure little joke pranksters that maybe both of those elements had intially presented them as.

WEEN had become eternal.

Godspeed gents, and for the last twenty-five years I soundly say, “good show!!!”

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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