Ween is either a band you love or hate. If you love them, its probably because you dig (or tolerate) their ability to blend nonsensical topics and low-brow humour with the ability to tackle a wide range of genres using their exceptional skills in playing their instruments and developing some of the catchiest hooks outside of pop. If you hate them, its probably because they suck at these, or whatnot. Though this dangerous duo has been around since the late-80s, writing songs in their teens, this album marks the first that features some massive production and a round of accomplished studio players at their helm to make their genre-mashing jingles come alive even more. This album in particular tackles psychedelic 70s arena rock, afro-cuban, country, soul, and 1960s pop-rock into one addictive and pleasing sonic brew.
Lyrically, these guys are just retarded. Many of the lyrics really make no sense and others as one might find dwell on unfair stereotypes of the genres they ape (“Freedom of ‘76", “Voodoo Lady", “Buenas Tardes Amigo"). Others songs downright infringe on the border of good taste like “The HIV Song" and ‘Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down). After all these guys have been said to got their name by combining “wuss" and ‘*****" together.
And oh yeah, before I get on to analyzing the songs, this record also proudly features probably one of the greatest album covers of the last decade in all its sleazy glory that recalls the sexist and indulgent album covers of various hard rock bands of the 1970s and 80s. (Spinal Tap, eat your heart out).
Take Me Away
- This song blends bone-headed 70’s arena rock with smooth and jazzy lounge stylings- kinda like Peter Frampton meets the rat pack. Though the vocals are a little repetitive, its got a very catchy and swinging guitar riff, and features a really cool fuzzed-out guitar solo in the bridge that fringes on psychedelia. Some great dynamic shifts as well and some solid rhythmwork, especially in the tight drum rolls. 4/5
Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)
- A pretty twisted song that first features eerie chimes coming through both sides of the speakers while the vocals are in this pitched high so it sounds like a child singing, ‘why they wanna see my spine mommy?/ It’s gonna hurt again mommy." The timbre shifts completely in the chorus with some nice acoustic strumming and heavy flange. a very distinct and wonderfully laid out guitar solo dominates the last part of the song. Twisted yes, but also very catchy. 5/5
Freedom of ‘76
- this is a pretty solid take on 70-era Philly soul that is characterized by some stunning falsetto vocals, hazy backing harmonies, and some awesome jazzy chord progressions. The lyrics manage to fit in every stereotype of Phillidelphia itself, citing the Liberty Bell, Woolworths, and of course, Boyz II Men. a dead-on parody, especially in the charming vocal melodies. 4.5/5
I Can’t Put My Finger on it
- Another twisted and bizarre song, that is dominated in the verses by some distorted bass, sparse wah guitar, and equally scattered percussion. The breaks in between verses recall a very mellow and psychedelic feel in the guitars and beach sound effects. The vocals meanwhile are done in a bizarre accent, kinda Hispanic sounding, and the lyrics are just as messed up (ie. ‘are you surprised when I touch the dwarf inside?"). the final verse incorporates a cool eastern european melody on a violin. 4.5/5
A Tear for Eddie
- This a cool mellow psychedelic instrumental that draws heavily on Pink Floyd, especially in the smooth and emotive guitar playing, which contains some wonderful accents and licks throughout. The distortion and flange kicks in midway and really emphasizes the mood of the song. Some wonderful playing too. 5/5
Roses are Free
- This is probably the catchiest song on the album (I think it was a single too). The lyrics are pretty messed up and nonsensical with lines like, ‘Eat plenty of lasagna ‘til you know you’ve had your fill/ Resist all the urges that make you wanna go out and kill". Nevertheless, the melodies are extremely catchy and bridges features a twisted carnival-style melody followed by a stellar and simple fuzz-heavy guitar solo that reiterates the vocal melody. 5/5
- Very folksy, almost in the vein of Simon and Garfunkel with the simple acoustic guitar accompaniment and tight vocal harmonies. However the aggressive he-said-she-said lyrics completely hash up the genre in question (ie. “Baby, Baby, Baby Bitch/ **** you, you stupid *** ho"). Some alright vocal melodies. This song is a little disposable though. 3/5
Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?
- Another messed up song that’s once again features some very catchy melodies. The guitar features a cool jazzy progression in the verse over a poppy and melodic bassline. The meanwhile bridge is full of synthesizer washes, bells, wah-infused vocals, followed by a pretty clean and melodic guitar solo. The keyboard lines that dominate the song are just play creepy, also. 3/5
Drifter in the Dark
- a nice laidback take on country that is characterized by a simple arrangement, some sweet call-and-answer style vocals between the lead and backing harmonies, and some sparse production. The song itself sounds like it was recorded inside a giant tin can. The lazy harmonica, is a cool touch also, this almost sounds like this could be on a Beck record. 4/5
- this is simply an awesome song that blends slippery funk, afro-cuban rhythms, and Santana-esque guitar work and dynamics into one addictive sound. The guitar riff in the verse works so well with the vocals and intense percussion. Awesome and simple guitar solo in the bridge. Some wonderful studio effects and a funky bassline keep the song going near the end, along with some very catchy backing vocals. Great work. 5/5
- A nice and breezy pop song that features some plentiful acoustic guitar and very melodic bassline that flows so smoothly throughout the breadth of the song. The vocal harmonies are very tight and hazy. The song takes on a latin/flamenco kind of feel as characterized by the guitar solo in the bridge. Nice bass solo in the end too. 3/5
- Another song, that is simply just weird as its generally just a mash-up of sparse instrumentation, an effects heavy bassline, nonsensical vocals and random sound effects that build up gradually as the song progresses. This is probably the weakest song on the album. 2/5
Buenas Tardes Amigo
- this song incorporates that south-western/country/latin-rock style perfectly with the sparse and lonsome guitar playing and somber vocals that dwell on hispanic stereotypes in the typical fashion of Ween (ie. Bad humour). The song tells a story of revenge, with a twist, in a wonderfully laid out manner and gradually picks up to a wonderful climax in the bridge with churning synthesizers, mexicano percussion, and a simply killer guitar solo. Just simply an amazing song if you can get around the stereotypes in poor taste. 5/5
The HIV Song
- This song is…well you decide. Its basically two minutes of upbeat carnival music and the only vocals are the occasional muttering of H-I-V or AIDS. Yeah, this is poor taste and definitely the most twisted jingle here. 0/5
(because I really don’t how to rate a song like this)
What Deaner Was Talkin’ About
- very Beatlesque sounding with some heavy flange and catchy vocal melodies, especially the harmonies in the chorus. Short, simple, and sweet with some very bright and upbeat vocals and a very poppy-psychedelic timbre. 4.5/5
Don’t **** Where You Eat
- This last song is another very catchy number with a great bluesy acoustic guitar hook that is played behind some excellent vocal harmonies. A nice and melodic guitar solo that’s heavy on reverb and tremolo in the bridge. 4.5/5
Overall, this is an awesome album if you got a sense of humour and into tongue-in-cheek genre-bending (or abusing) music like Beck, Primus, and Mr. Bungle. Chocalte and Cheese is an album that will give you a laugh, piss you off, and wow you sometimes even in just one song. Along with the Mollusk, this is probably one of their finest works.
Roses are Free
Buenas Tardes Amigo
Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)
A Tear for Eddie