By Dennis Cook
These are all hits on an American Bandstand broadcasting from the spaceship diner at the end of the universe - where gnomes, aging strippers, and greasy, pink-cheeked children boogaloo to the Boognish beat. The first in a projected series of outtakes and rarities from Ween's substantial vaults, what might have been a throwaway stop-gap until their new album next year turns out to be the rare odds-and-sods set worth releasing. Shinola does, in fact, know the difference between itself and dark fecal waste.
Offered up with zero details, this baked dozen could be from any time in Ween history. A couple cuts appeared on the popular bootleg Craters of the Sac, but the majority is fresh meat. You might toy with guessing their vintage, like guessing that “Did You See Me?” sounds like a sweetly swooning sibling to “Buckingham Green,” so maybe it’s from The Mollusk sessions. But who knows if they aren’t a decade apart? More to the point, who cares? Ween’s complete absence of liner notes forces us to accept (or reject) the songs on their own merits.
Some of this sounds like sketches waiting for more words or an inspired bridge. “Big Fat Fuck” and “Tastes Good On Th’ Bun” are just single provocative lines repeated over a lightly toasted backdrop. Elsewhere, Dean and Gene reveal themselves as the master pop craftsmen they are at heart. Ween possess an all-seeing understanding of song construction AND a healthy disrespect for convention. The result is like Cheap Trick, Spike Jones, and George Martin pulling a train on Dusty Springfield. Now there’s something that’d taste good on a bun!
The tighty whitey creeper “Boys Club” shows a singles band that took too much nitrous oxide and had to content themselves with being an album band. “I Fell In Love Today” takes their tongue out of their cheek for a summery bit of good lovin’ full of slinky guitars smiling on the grass. Easy breezy “Transitions” is a mash up of ‘70s Brian Eno and mid-70s Grateful Dead, and Jew-licious “Israel” gets scriptural on a soft Burt Bacharach bed.
The tributes here are all on par with “It’s Gonna Be A Long Night,” the spot-on Motorhead homage that kicked off Quebec. Early ‘90s Prince gets his due on “Monique The Freak,” who also shakes her stuff at Rick James and Cameo. And “Gabrielle” is the best song Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott should have written but didn’t. When they wrap themselves in another’s skin, they end up truly channeling them down to the subtle nuances. It makes one want to sit and listen to records with them just to hear their observations.
Though frequently trapped in a Freudian anal stage feedback loop, Ween don’t produce shit. Ever. Quietly and ever so weirdly, they’ve carved out one of the best catalogs in the past 20 years. These stray pieces are all worthy additions to the steaming pile inside their Palace of Vice.