I've never known quite what to make of Ween. And that's always been OK with me. The mere fact that a band so slippery and just plain weird had found relative success out there was enough to delight me. Oh, I'd heard Ween on occasion, read the occasional album review and discussed the band with friends, but I'd never really sat down with an entire Ween album and honestly, patiently, listened to it. Until now. After giving their new long-player, Quebec (Sanctuary/BMG) a spin around the track, I can't really say I have any great new insights to impart about what makes this oddball duo tick, tick, tick. And you know what? That's still OK with me.
Gene and Dean Ween have a knack for taking more-or-less traditional rock and pop arrangements (including metal, folk, country and prog) and tweaking the most holy crap out of them with synthesizers, samples, vocal manipulations and yummy, gawd-awful noise. Quebec continues this non-formulaic formula with tunes that, for the most part, go down nice and easy during the casual romp. Yet a more attentive stroll through these tracks reveals the instrumental and lyrical peculiarities of Ween.
Quebec starts off briskly with the straight-ahead rock of "It's Gonna Be a Long Night" (whereon Dean Ween does his very best Lemmy Motorhead), then segues into the dreamy, bubbly paranoid lounge pop of "Zoloft" ("Gimme that z, o-l-o-f-t / Gimme a grip, make me love me"). Further in, the listener is treated to the rocking psyben roadtrip of "Transdermal Celebration," in which one meets beautiful mutants, views the upheaval of nature and watches jets fly in formation.
Adolescent humor and obsession with naughty bits gurgle up in unexpected places -- in the acid folk of "Tried and True" ("Can you dig in my soul, could you smell my whole -- life?") and in the thinly veiled (and pleasantly countrified) ode to bum love, "Chocolate Town." There's even a genuinely tender ballad in here somewhere ("I Don't Want It"). In the "so stupid it's stupid" category is "So Many People in the Neighborhood" and "Hey There Fancy Pants," which sounds like a Sparks outtake, circa 1974.
In all its joyful and faintly icky weirdness, Quebec is pretty much what we've come to expect from Ween. Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing?