By: Scott Caffrey
With a mere glance at its raunchy cover art, La Cucaracha (Rounder) is as good a sign as any that our Good Ol' Ween is back. Gone is the despondence and apathy that palled the manic genius of Quebec, and hello "Fiesta!" A blast of pure, action-packed energy, our heroes turn into a psychedelic Tijuana Brass Band. They've always been good for a few punishing album openers, but this aural party is far and away their most upbeat. In just over two minutes, it heralds a return to form and an uptick in attitude.
In many ways, La Cucaracha is just more typical Ween. Variety remains, absurdity reigns and, taken as a whole, the album presents the usual challenges. Select tracks quickly stand out, but given proper time even the bummers reveal their positive qualities. They sure as hell haven't run out of new experiments to explore, all the while hanging onto their stalwart trademarks. This time they take on reggae ("Fruit Man"), New Age spas ("Spirit Walker") and ripsnortin' bluegrass ("Learnin' to Love"). There's also guitar rawk ("My Own Bare Hands"), the blippy floater ("Blue Balloon"), humor ("Shamemaker") and even some regular maintenance of the creep factor ("Object"). The surprises here lie only in their decisions of what sounds to ape. Again, vintage Ween.
Among all this brown stands their best work in eons, "Woman and Man." A massive, progged-out epic, these 10 frantic, beautiful minutes make this wild animal a combination of nearly all the threads they've gathered over the years. It's Fela Kuti and Led Zeppelin all in the same masterstroke. And it ends with disparate sounds of a Normandy Beach-style invasion and a woman reaching orgasm. Hoo-wee. Just listen, because frankly it saves the album from being just another Ween release and makes it really fucking great.
The album ends, curiously, with "Your Party," a collaboration with the great David Sanborn. Years ago, Deaner said they would never use horns unless they "could get David Sanborn to play some sexy saxophone." They accomplish that here. However, I can't help but want way more out of Sanborn-infused Ween than this saccharine song, especially if they've wanted to work with him for 15 years. I really dig the try, but I just think they needed to get more out of it.
The common theme of La Cucaracha, not unlike its predecessor Quebec, is relationships. An endlessly fascinating topic, relationships seen through the gauzy Ween lens become even more bewitching. Clearly, they came out of rehab thankful that they have "Friends" at all.
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