Long standing cult favourites Ween have taken an unusually long four years between albums, and following 2003's Quebec - which featured some of their best music so far - La Cucaracha had become highly anticipated. As a taster, Ween delivered the five track Friends EP, which marked a low-tide mark for the adventurous band. Seemingly having run out of styles to be inspired by, they dredged the world of eurodisco for inspiration - with little success. Thankfully La Cucaracha gets the band firmly back in the land of the living.
The title tells all, and the light hearted opener Fiesta sets the scene for a party record before Blue Balloon gets things moving along in jovial style. It's a great song, but it's left-field vocal delivery has the effect of making you feel like the band will be laughing at you later. The hideous Friends has been totally re-recorded since the EP making it far more palatable - and with tracks like Object and Spirit Walker we get Ween at their mildly more serious best.
Woman and Man is the most successful track, doing classic rock like only Ween can. And Santana or course - to whom the track owes it's heaviest debt. Again, lyrically their tongue is deep in cheek - with the Adam and Eve lyrics taking themselves far less seriously that other retro rockers like Wolfmother. Lyrics are soon a thing of the past however, as the song stretches out into a fantastic ten minute twin guitar epic.
Your Party wraps things up with some atmospherics and sound effects making a brief suggestion that there was some sort of concept going on here. It may be one of the bands more cohesive records, with a far less wandering style between tracks - but while I would love an album compiled exclusively of their classic rock variety it seems that maybe the up and down roller coaster is what's needed in order to take the band up to the higher peaks that the best moments of albums Chocolate & Cheese or White Pepper reached.
The Friends EP
Where can you begin when describing Ween? Like a friend who's the life and soul of the party, they often end up puking in the punch bowl and making out with your cousin. You know you should just stop hanging out with them, but you're always too ready to just give them one more chance.
Ween have always made a genre out of having no genre, but as the band seem ever hungry to (re)conquer 'new' territory they can be a little hard to pin down. With the opening salvo of Friends sounding like an Estonian entry into the Eurovision song contest I think It's safe to say that every genre has now been covered. Sounding note for note like a raved up Barbie Girl, only the lyrics serve as a clue that this is no what it seems. "Do you want me as your special friend?"
...or maybe I'm just believing the hype about Ween. Often lauded as superb musicians, I am forever finding myself waiting for that one serious (OK, maybe not serious, but at least less inside-joke-orientated) album. I have personally heard moments of their brilliance (Stay Forever, What Deaner Was Talkin' About, If You Could Save Yourself... ) and I know that a classic album is in there - they just seem reluctant to let it out. Like a west coast KLF, they are constantly playing the fool - poking fun and showing us just how easy it is to make all kinds of music, yet never quite letting us inside the circle. What do they actually want to sound like? What do they actually like? The psuedo-reggae of King Billy? The latin groove of Light Me Up? Or maybe the 80's soft-rock or Slow Down Boy, which never quite hits yacht? Hopefully it's the classic rock of Did You See Me, currently playing on their Myspace page.
It may be (yet) another mis-step, but this won't stop me looking and yet again I'll just put this one down to a funny joke and wait for the album proper - La Cucaracha which is due in the Autumn. That's bound to be the one to finally unleash the inner Ween.