Review Summary: Ween blesses the world with one of the most original sounding albums ever. It's far from accessible, but if you can appreciate the lo-fi weirdness, humor, and awkwardness of the album then the rest of their discography should be a walk in the park.
When determining what constitutes as a "great" album, many qualifications arise. The album should keep the listener's interest, it should come off as somewhat original, it should contain talented personnel, and most importantly, it should at least be somewhat accessible. With the possible exception of the latter, Ween's major label debut, Pure Guava, abundantly showcases these qualifications in an atypical way.
When it comes to keeping the listener's interest: Pure Guava is packed with engaging lyrics that use humor as a tool to develop their songs. This causes most of the tracks to intrinsically be sing-alongs. Because the lyrics are so easy to follow, anyone who listens to this album should have no trouble getting to know each song in only a few listens. Lyrical topics span from love to drugs to an interesting philosophy about depression to pure randomness. When it comes to randomness the lyrics do not hesitate to go completely out there: "I am the one who controls the sun/And I know that things will pass/As time elapses/Time elapsing through the sound of you/And the things we could do/Just think of the master/Trying to fool the blastman/Check the cards at the table/Scream softly you are able." Not every song on the album is silly though; a handful of serious songs can be found scattered throughout the track list, usually dedicated to Gene Ween's wife at the time – Sarah. Overall, the mix of topics make it easy to focus on and even deeply analyze the album upon first listen.
When it comes to being at least somewhat original: Pure Guava is perfect example of an album that few to possibly no other albums resemble. Most of the vocals are heavily drowned in various types of vocal effects. These vocal effects cause Gene and Dean Ween's voices to either be unnaturally high pitched, trippy and low pitched, a silly southern droll, fuzzy, or just echoey. For instance, like many songs the album, "Little Birdy" uses its vocal effects to set the mood of the song (trippy and low pitched vocals for a trippy and out of it mood.) Of course, Gene Ween, in specific, still has an exceptionally talented voice (as proven in songs like "Freedom of '76" from the album Chocolate and Cheese) so the heavy use of these effects is not to make up for a poor singing voice. Originality doesn't stop at vocal effects; the music for most of the songs is best described as lo-fi alternative psychedelia with occasional post-industrial leanings – so in other words, experimental. What keeps this album so original and fresh is that Ween's later releases (as well as their earlier ones) barely resemble a single song on here.
When it comes to containing talented personnel: Dean Ween's guitar work is clearly well played and diverse. Though, unlike some of Ween's other albums, he's clearly holding back to allow his parts still fit the theme of the album. Andrew Weiss's bass work on songs like "Pumpin' 4 the Man" is no short of brilliant. The post-industrial keyboard sections may actually be some of the most interesting parts on the entire album; for instance, in "Reggaejunkiejew" a blaring keyboard and feedback solo is employed. Even though, the vocals don't showcase anything that's exceptional, they're blocked by vocal effects, so clearly Pure Guava wasn't meant to be known for its vocals.
When it comes to accessibility: The album is incredibly strange and often off-putting to a fault where it does not warrant a large audience. To the general public, many of the moments of this album might be described as "stupid" or "pointess" or "annoying as hell." For this reason, anyone listening to this album should walk into it expecting obnoxiousness as a source of humor, rather than a source of suffering. Of course it's incredibly immature, but that's just part of its mystique. Now, the album has its actual flaws; a couple of the slower tracks come off as a little draggy and "Hey Fat Boy (Asshole)" just seems to occupy space on the album. Even with these very few drawbacks, the album is still strong in its own unique way.
For what it's supposed to be, Pure Guava is nearly a perfect album. However, despite how easy it is to get to know it upon only a few listens, one listen alone is probably not enough to draw a final opinion since it has grower tendencies. Pure Guava is not for everyone, but if you're looking for an original, experimental, incredibly talented comedy record, then it should be right up your alley.
Album Highlights: "Little Birdy", "Big Jilm", "I Saw Gener Cryin' in His Sleep", "Poop Ship Destroyer"