Push the little Daisies, a surprise novelty hit that doesn’t annoy me as much as your average novelty hit. Voodoo Lady, a trippy piece of psychedelic, bongo fuelled awesome that never gets skipped when it pops up on shuffle. Piss Up A Rope, a fun take on country that is way better and enduring than it should be. That is the extent of my experience with Ween. I know they’re much more than that, and respected by plenty of musicians who I love. Which is why I feel a little guilty about taking so long to listen to them properly, starting with Chocolate and Cheese.
All of the songs listed above are completely different from each other and don’t even sound like the same band made them. A tradition that continues on Chocolate and Cheese. Take Me Away is a bombastic vocal belter, like a lounge singer’s big finish. Then it’s into the weirdness of Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down), complete with high a pitched effected voice, spooky spoken word delivery and slow jam chorus Barry White could have made his own.
The falsetto, soul feel of Freedom of ‘76 keeps the genre hopping going and means that just three songs in, Ween are proving to be one of the most impressive bands I’ve ever heard in terms of musicality and versatility. Musicality and versatility that’s highlighted even more on the Tom Waits-esque, I Can’t Put My Finger On It. It’s the soundtrack to a nightmare that I’m glad I’ve never had, and it’s kind of amazing.
But as Chocolate and Cheese went on, I did find the constant changes in style and sound become a little too schizophrenic. A Tear for Eddie is a beautifully intricate instrumental of soaring guitars and atmosphere, but it comes out of nowhere, then disappears into the annoying weirdness of Roses Are Free. A demented commercial jingle from a creepy a parallel dimension version of the 50s, it seems a little weird just for weird’s sake.
Which makes Baby Bitch a great change up. It’s a regular, simple song, proving Ween don’t need the crutch of quirk to make compelling music. Ignore the lyrics like, “fuck you, you stinky ass ho”, and it’s almost a sweet sounding ballad with a hint of 60s psychedelia. Which makes it a great paring with Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony? It sounds like some wholesome family act of the 60s, trotting out their G rated pop, while still having that signature Ween edge of snark underneath.
Joppa Road is a rambling acoustic guitar driven amble that is pleasant and soothing, and couldn’t be more different to what comes next. Because what comes next is Candi, a shambolic and pretty terrible exercise in bad editing, noise and general dicking around. And it’s only slightly more pointless than the mariachi story telling of Buenas Tardes Amigo.
I realise something about Ween and Chocolate and Cheese. In some way, it sounds like a band for hire, being commissioned to write different songs for different people, then whacking all of those different songs, based on different briefs, together on one album. I like the variety in some ways, and really loved more than a few of this songs on Chocolate and Cheese. But it’s hard to get a sense of the band or feel and flow when things change so dramatically every three or four minutes.