Mojo

Why The World Needs Ween!

Ween have a new record out. Now, normally, such a mundane record industry announcement would not be worthy of valuable blog space but the Friends EP is no ordinary event. The first release from Pennsylvania's surreal kings of musical mutation since 2003's critically dismissed Quebec, Friends was recorded with Reinhard Raith, aka DJ Voodoo, the German engineer behind 2006's ubiquitous and much-hated Crazy Frog phenomenon.

Completely without irony or any gimlet-eyed Zappa cruelty, Ween and Raith have created a perfect slice of dancefloor uplift from a critic-reviled music genre and a lyric that deals with vocalist Gene Ween's recovery from clinical depression. If released by the Pet Shop Boys or the Flaming Lips it would be hailed as a stroke of post-modern genius and a diamond-sharp encapsulation of the bleak core of EU-grey melancholy that lies at the heart of all the best/worst house music.

However, chances are, because it's Ween, it will merely be dismissed as another bong-brained goof-off from Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman who, at some point in their 23-year long career as Dean and Gene Ween, fell out of favour with the critical cognoscenti. Odd really. From the heyday of Sparks and Steely Dan to the current feting of the Fountains Of Wayne, music critics have always loved the canny pop deconstructionist who pens clever ditties about burned-out trailer-home dudes or disaffected New Jersey computer programmers. However, Planet Ween is not the smug and tidy escapist world of those other smart guys. Neither does it possess the secretive art-project sangfroid of fellow cultural upsetters the Residents. To descend into Ween world is to embrace the sick, messy idiot heart of 21st Century rock'n'roll, the offal as well as the off-cuts, the squelchy acid-horror as well as the perfect pop.

It's not been an easy path to take. The other day Gene Ween (aka Aaron Freeman) called MOJO to discuss the Friends EP, insisting that the intentions behind the single's Euro-house sound were totally serious ("We're not some Frank Zappa bitter joke band. If we were really making fun of this music you'd probably hear it in the lyrics") and that the track concerns his recovery from a period of clinical depression.

"The last two years haven't been easy," he said. "After Quebec I went through a period where I wanted to get recognised by the masses and I thought that our stuff was good enough for that. But we couldn't be the Flaming Lips or any of these bands. It's impossible for Ween to do anything else other than what Ween does. But, as we get older, I hope people appreciate Ween as people appreciate Randy Newman or something. I'm actually happier now to be in Ween than ever."

Asked whether the new-outlook post-depression Ween will make people incredibly happy or incredibly disturbed, Aaron pondered for a bit before saying "Both! The thing about Ween is we don't limit ourselves."

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