Review Summary: Pop-Rooted Musical Madness With a Nautical Theme
Ween - The Mollusk
Rock? Ween knows rock.
Ween has been playing rock music for nearly twenty years, but the rock label hardly fits. Ween is everything that a rock band can (or should) be: at turns melodic and abrasive, tender and cruel, experimental yet rooted in the pop aesthetics that made the 60s musical revolution.
Comparisons to other groups are futile. Ween is smarter and more polished than They Might Be Giants. They can be trippier than The Beatles at their trippiest or as noisy and melodic as the Boredoms would be if they wrote actual rock songs.
This review's first sentence could have read "Love songs? Ween knows love songs" or "Comedy? Ween knows comedy" and the sentence would have stood just as true. Because Ween does them all and much, much more. And they never did whatever it is they do better than on 1998's "The Mollusk."
"The Mollusk" is a disc of progressive pop rock for the ever-so-slightly unhinged. Every song on this album vibrates with a certain perved-out pop sensibility. That's not to say that the album seeks to offend - all but two songs would hardly raise an eyebrow at a PTA meeting. Rather Ween always adds just the right elements to a song to give it that sugar-high rush we all love. Remember the drumriff and guitars from "Voodoo Lady"? They held the song together and gave it a hook. Ween does that here consistently.
It doesn't all sound the same, either. Ween plays the same pop-with-an-edge that made me love Mr. Bungle's final album. Ween adds little touches that make each song and genre their own, whether they're throwing us post-Beatles psychedelia ("Mutilated Lips". "The Mollusk"), distorted slaprock ("I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot", "The Golden Eel"), or resonant love ballads ("She Wanted to Leave", "It's Gonna Be (Alright)"). It's also oddly mature and disciplined music, provided you ignore the horrifically-crude "The Blarney Stone" and weird musical diversion "Pinkeye on My Leg". Ween produces some of the most intriguing music available over the last decade and it's unfortunate that they seem destined to remain a "cult" band in our ailing music scene - a scene that could desperately use something like this.
From trippy showtune opener "Dancing in the Show Tonight" to the barnburning ballad finale "She Wanted to Leave (Reprise)", Ween interests and challenges the listener. Their trademark use of pitch-tuned guitars and vocals keep this nautically-themed disc fresh and satisfying. The sheer amount of ingenuity that went into this disc makes it an instant classic and part of my permanent record collection.
I will close by saying that "Ocean Man" has been one of my favorite songs ever since I first heard it on the Spongebob OST. For about a week it was on infinite repeat in my head wherever I went, disrupting my concentration at school, work and home as I obsessively hummed it. When I wasn't singing it I had the album on in my car. You can't praise much higher than that.
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