Ween Is As Ween Does

As bands and labels metaphorically tear off their clothes to jump headlong

into the warm, slippery love-in that is the gurgling mainstream

acceptability of techno and its many derivatives, Ween turns a cheek,

tongue already in it, breaking fast into the somewhat lesser known genre

of sea-rock. The Mollusk is a paella of sharp, bizarre and

satisfying ditties that range in style from neat-o pop to saltydog sailor

dirge. Separating this curious album are soft love ballads, spacey flights

of musical fancy and the occasional rude-yet-entertaining anomaly, proving

that, as always, Ween carries forward on their odyssey of oddity.

Consider this: The Mollusk was recorded around 12 Golden Country

Greats (finished in Nashville in November 1995), part before, some

after. Today it seems like every band and their blue dog did the country

thing. But put Mollusk up against Country Greats and it's

easy to think two things: that these guys are clowns, and that these guys

are extremely talented musical clowns. Yes, there is a strong nautical

influence here, as you might have guessed straight from the album title.

Many songs are played in 3/4 time, establishing that "Thar she blows!"

unction, falling in synch with the band's joker mentality and thematic

direction.

Wacky Weenster highjinks notwithstanding, there's plenty of noteworthy

music here. The title track "The Mollusk" employs pleasant, light, bubbly

noises, evoking oceanic images. Four notes from an acoustic guitar and

background drumming focus attention on the song's story, which I couldn't

really understand. Something about the mollusk speaking of the Trinity

(presumably the Holy one) and... well, hey, it's Ween, after all. The

latent spiritual iconography of littoral marine creatures aside, it sounds

interesting and profound. Add in the synthed French horns toward the end

of the song to the overall simple melodic structure and presto -- a wink

at Sgt. Pepper and his band of Lonely Hearts. Nice.

More Beatlesque composition follows with "Polka Dot Tail," a rhetorical

inquiry into the spotting of whales with uncommon coloring, bringing to

mind an LSD-riddled Captain Ahab, which is good for a laugh, but not much

else. A far more appealing psychedelic foray is "Mutilated Lips," a

circular, rhyming string of colorful nonsense fortified by a slick

production job (kudos to Andrew Weiss, who also produced Ween's 1994 album

Chocolate & Cheese). It's whimsy of the first magnitude and classic

Ween. Fun.

And what Ween album is complete without at least one curse-laden number.

"The Blarney Stone" is an ale-swilling, wench-harassing drinking song to

make any seasoned merchant ship cap'tin proud but, like others of its ilk,

it grows tiring quickly. "Wavin' My Dick In The Wind" is far more

entertaining and, like "The Blarney Stone," is sung with the same

happy-go-lucky enthusiasm. In contrast to these tangents are the softer

songs. Far more deserving of attention than anything else here, these

tunes are indicative of the quality songwriting this band can offer. "It's

Gonna Be (Alright)" is a sad, pretty lament that's touching in a lost-love

kind of way and "Cold Blows The Wind," with it's quiet, dark and windblown

textures, proves that, when motivated, Ween can make some darn good music.

All in all, The Mollusk is pretty much what you'd expect from a

band you never know what to expect from. If you've enjoyed their other

albums, it'll make a good companion for your collection, and if you've

never listened to them before, well... Ween is as Ween does. Strange.