Those not in the cult of Ween cannot name any Ween songs. But you like Ween. You just don’t know it. Not since the Butthole Surfers has a band so adeptly churned out goofball experimental noise. But, unlike the Surfers, Ween is also skilled with soulful and intricate songwriting, highlighted by Gene Ween’s Curtis Mayfield falsettos and Tom Waits growls. Anyone annoyed with the meandering fuck-about that is “Poop Ship Destroyer” would be captivated by the Philly soul of “Freedom of 76” or butt-rocking “Captain Fantasy.” There are sea chanteys, Irish drinking songs, punk anthems, Mexican murder ballads, pop tarts, odes to Zoloft, and everything in between in the Ween catalog.
The Pennsylvania duo’s latest album, 2007’s La Cucaracha, never rose above 69 (appropriately) on Billboard album charts, and early single “Push th’ Little Daisies” hit top 10 charts—in Australia. Yet Ween has become a mainstay of rock festivals and sold-out performances, including Wednesday’s Crystal Ballroom fiasco.
Ween’s story is remarkable…a weird, deconstructionist journey through early alternative rock and fledgling indie DIY values. Below is an abbreviated history of the band’s ascent from basement jackoffs to underground heroes.
1984: Middle schoolers Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman form Ween in New Hope, Pa., adopting the names Dean and Gene Ween, respectively. Songs about boobs ensue.
1987: Ween releases The Crucial Squeegie Lip, the first of six self-produced goof-offs likely fueled by psilocybin and huffing. Its 40 tracks include “Boobs” parts I through III and “You Fucked Up.”
1990: Minneapolis indie label Twin/Tone releases God/Ween/Satan: The Oneness.
The album’s 29 tracks range
from the nine-minute Prince clone “L.M.L.Y.P.” (Let Me Lick Your Pussy) to the
23-second Bob Seger impersonation “Old Man Thunder.” Ween becomes an
alternative to the alternative movement.
1992: Ween signs with Elektra for Pure Guava. “Push th’ Little Daisies” becomes one of only two Ween songs to chart on Billboard after getting the Beavis and Butt-Head seal of approval.
1994: The band cameos in It’s Pat: The Movie, the Citizen Kane of one-note SNL spinoffs. Julia Sweeney’s androgynous hero(ine) joins the band and shrieks “I’m in Weeeeeeeeeeeeen.”
1994: Chocolate and Cheese becomes Ween’s most accessible album, a fully realized dynamo that includes “AIDS,” “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down),” and “Voodoo Lady,” which peaks at No. 32 on Billboard charts. Hippies discover correlation between nitrous oxide and Ween.
1996: 12 Golden Country Greats, a collection of 10 hillbilly anthems, is recorded in Nashville. Honky-tonk gets a Ween spin with songs like “Piss Up a Rope” and “Mr. Richard Smoker.”
1997: The band returns to the home studio for The Mollusk, its most grown-up album—a stretch, given the eerie supernatural ballad “Cold Blows the Wind” is paired with the hectic “Waving My Dick in the Wind.”
2002: Pizza Hut commissions Ween to write a jingle. The conglomerate receives “Where’d the Cheese Go?,” a nutso ditty recalling the early days. The song is rejected. Ween reformats with Gene growling, in a faux-ghetto cadence, “Bitch, where’d the motherfuckin’ cheese go to?” It, too, is rejected.
2004: “Ocean Man” appears in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Movie. At least one parent is shocked to learn the band also writes Caribbean-style songs about the joys of cocaine.
2007: La Cucaracha is released. Fans pretend it wasn’t.
2009: Dean launches the Brownie Troop Fishing Show, a Web series combining his love of fishing, drinking and hanging out with fellow rockers. Fans are invited to apply for voyages.
2013(?): Ween fan dies on fishing trip with Dean. Autopsy shows huge traces of Zoloft.