Review Summary: The Friends EP can be seen as both a limited misstep and as an effective teaser for their later due full length.
It may not seem like it, but the followers of the Boognish have anticipated 2007 like no other. You would have to go back to 2003 to hear the most recent new music from their beloved Ween, an album which has since been followed up by a live CD/DVD and a collection of remastered b-sides. Both of these items are nice and have some quality stuff on them, but neither are a substitute for new material. So far in 2007, the band has announced a short east coast tour, and new live material; one to be a full length released in the Fall, and this, The Friends EP.
It begins with the song "Friends", an oddity not only because of its roots in dance/electronica coming from Ween makes as much sense as Amy Winehouse checking into detox (that joke took too long to think of), but because neither of the Ween's play instruments on the track. Instead, leeway is given to European DJ Reinhard Raith to do basically everything except the vocals. The track itself seems to parody dance tracks; complete with synthetic keyboard solos, spacey aesthetics, and counting to four in German. It's a fun departure from traditional ("traditional"?) Ween, but can be seen as either unfunny or too long. The next track, "I Got to Put the Hammer Down" retains the electronica feel from the previous song with its instrument usage, but a change in the direction of the lyrics ("I was strung out on a heroin kick/cops and the government on my dick"), a change in delivery, and a nice guitar solo from Dean makes this into a nice and brown track.
"King Billy" draws from White Pepper's "Bananas and Blow" but instead of a sort of funny 3 and a half minute song, it is now a six minute devoid of any humor and just a pain to listen to. The mood taken and put into this piece is a mix of Reggae and Latin, but neither are taken on with any worthwhile results. Honestly, this song could have ended at the two and a half minute mark and that would have been fine, but instead marches on to a Zoloft-ish bridge with repeated distant vocals saying the name of King Billy. Followed by an irritating "synth" solo with the tone set on "turd" which just seems to drone on and on until the track mercifully offs itself.
The Friends EP sees a quick recovery with the best track on here (not saying much, but its still nice). "Light Me Up" features a clear and electronica free tune with guitar taking the forefront and Gene reverting to his "I Can't Put My Finger On It" voice/mode. "Light me up/before you kill me/cause I ain't going down without a fight my friend" bellows the chorus which retains the Latin vibe from "King Billy", only this time it is put on display with a noisy guitar solo instead of a lengthy (re: too lengthy) bridge. Chorus repeats itself again and the song manages to end itself within proper time. "Slow Down Boy" is the ballad of the album, slow moving song but at least the instruments used are real. The track doesn't produce anything noteworthy other than it being the closing number, featuring a nice slowed down solo, and apparently Gene is now a woman, or something.
So there you have it. The EP won't be Ween's downfall, nor will it be what made New Hope, PA famous. In the end this is a nice EP to play and a timely release considering the season and what they're releasing it right before. There are some good tracks to be harvested here, and a too-dancey dance tune that might be enjoyed by Crazy Frog fans, wherever they are.