Ween are calling it quits.
One half of the pseudonymous Ween brothers, Aaron Freeman, recently announced he’s stepping away from his wacky persona as Gene Ween. Although his partner Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween, posted on Facebook that he hadn’t heard about the split, that in itself is a pretty clear sign that the news is true, which is a bummer.
I’m sure many people consider them a novelty act and a one-hit wonder (their 1993 single, “Push th’ Little Daisies,” which was a MTV favorite & a top 20 hit in Australia!). But despite the often-sophomoric humor infused throughout their work, their musicality & a chameleon-like ability to tackle just about any genre of pop music under the sun made them as legitimate a rock band as anyone.
Dean is regarded as a genuine guitar hero, and Gene’s devotion to styles not generally considered “cool” has led him to release a collection of covers of kitschy poet Rod McKuen’s songs. But since their earliest recordings in the late 80s they have dabbled with classic rock, metal, punk, funk, soul, psychedelic rock, sunshine pop, classical country, Latin balladry, sea shanties, TV commercial jingles, etc., and all with a savvy understanding of what it is that defines those genres. You could call it parody, but Ween always tackled the styles with such faithfulness that “homage” seems a better word.
I’ve had the opportunity to see Ween a number of times and in a number of different settings, from legendary LA indie-rock venue Jabberjaw just days after the 1992 riots; to an intimate show at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica; to a full-band rager at SF’s Fillmore Auditorium. I had the pleasure to introduce them at a show at the Palace in Hollywood.
Their shows were always a good time, best appreciated when one expects the unexpected. The scuttlebutt on the web was that the rock & roll lifestyle on the road took its toll on Aaron, so one can’t really blame him for needing to step away from the bacchanalia. But they will be missed and their dozen releases will serve as a worthy document of their slighty-corrupted musical intelligence.
Were it up to me, I’d load up their collected works in a rocket ship to the stars, so that alien life could best understand the variety of late 20th/early 21st century pop music on Earth. Or at least learn of the pleasures of pure guava.
ERIC J. LAWRENCE