Believe it or not, I’ve never been high in my life. I’ve never smoked, toked, puffed or inhaled. When it comes to controlled substances, I’m as straight-laced as they come. I know, that totally blows my image as someone living the hedonistic “sex & drugs & rock’n’roll” lifestyle of radio DJ, but it’s the truth. Still, two out of three ain’t bad!
That said, one of my favorite records of 1991 is perhaps the most stoned albums of all time: Ween‘s sophomore release, The Pod. That’s “sophomore,” not “sophomoric,” although that description applies as well. Heck, its cover features a parody of The Best of Leonard Cohen album, with a picture of one of the band members wearing a “nitrous oxide powered bong” superimposed over poor Leonard’s head.
And the music! Murky, lo-fi, 4-track noodlings serve as the musical bed for “brothers” Dean and Gene Ween’s tape-speed distorted vocals. The album establishes many of the band’s long-standing lyrical obsessions: guava, pork roll, being the Stallion and the various stages of trying to get with the ladies. Taken all at once it’s a bit much (the record is over 76 minutes long), like spending a whole evening in a smelly, smoke-filled dorm room watching a Gilligan’s Island marathon.
But taken in smaller, ahem, doses, there is something genuinely clever going on. Expanding on their manic debut the year before, Ween demonstrate a mastery of the art of pastiche throughout the record, especially in the prog & classic rock idioms, starting with the fractured blues of the album opener, “Strap on that Jammypac,” to the spot-on Hawkwind take of “Dr. Rock,” to the Ozzy-esque howl of “Captain Fantasy.”
Some tracks might even qualify as pretty, such as the sweetly psychedelic “Pork Roll Egg and Cheese,” or “Pollo Asado,” which features the dialog of a deranged take-out order at a fast-food stand set to a George Benson-like guitar lilt.
A year later, they pulled off the unexpected trick of having an actual charting single with “Push th’ Little Daisies,” and in the ensuing years continued to demonstrate their chameleon-like talents, even recording an amazingly faithful country record with some legendary Nashville session players. Dean Ween has also managed to become a genuine guitar hero. But “The Pod” remains a protean gem, certainly not for all tastes (one of the album’s tracks, “Can U Taste the Waste?” might serve as fair warning), but a curiosity that has quite a lot going for it.
– ERIC J. LAWRENCE