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
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
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.