FINAL GENE WEEN RECORDINGS

From the bandcamp site:

After 20+ years of near-fatal drug & alcohol abuse (thankfully culminating with intensive but successful rehab), AARON FREEMAN (aka Gene Ween) was left in a dire financial situation. All proceeds will go directly to Aaron, as he continues down the path toward creative freedom and personal health.

These demos represent the final writings and music of Gene Ween, before he departed and the inner FREEMAN emerged. On that note, we have received a two word personal statement from Aaron: “stay tuned.”

Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 18/Sept. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 18 (Sept. 2005)

REVIEWS BY C and D

Ween
Shinola Volume 1
(Chocodog/ween.com)
C: Ween, the house band of Arthur.
D: Not that they’d ever come to our house.
C: Coming through with an album of outtakes. But it doesn’t—
D: [singing along to opening track “Good on the Bun”] “Tastes! Tastes! Tastes good on the bun! Tastes! Good on the bun! Tastesssss…”
C: Another great Ween album. I mean, this is just a guide vocal, and a Miami bass drum pattern and the Deaner wanking away.
D: And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
C: Once I was talking to the singer of a band who shall remain nameless who went on tour opening for Ween. All the people couldn’t wait til Ween came on, and when they played a 20-minute version of “Push the Little Daisies,” people were in tears, just losing it. That’s when he realized his band was never going to make it.
D: Which is a terrible thing to realize.
C: [listening to “Boys’ Club”] “You can talk of the future/you can talk of the past/you can go find yourself a nice piece of ass”: What is this, a jingle for the Catholic Church? Amazing. And “Israel” is a Jersey Jew, perfunctorily giving a benediction, backed by the greasiest Sopranos saxophone possible…
D: It’s a one-man bar band at a bar mitzvah—
C: He just pressed the “pan flute” button on the Korg.
D: The cheese is frying on this one, that’s for sure.
C: I heard someone say these guys are one step removed from Weird Al—
D: Totally ridiculous.
C: Weird Al changes the words to popular songs. Ween write the best songs all of your favorite bands should’ve written. That’s a big difference, bro. “Gabrielle” is total Thin Lizzy action—
D: [spilling beer, exclaiming] Thinner Lizzy!
C: Please, D, contain yourself.
D: Like you’ve never spilled a beer! [muttering] So arrogant!
C: [continuing] And “The Rift,” which I think is “Roses Are Free” slowed down—is like the worst slash greatest Styx song possible. “I am the commander of time/in my vessel of god/I go through the rift/to the palace of ice … we may not come back from the palace of ice/because the rift is a door”—it’s prog written by the guy who got held back in eighth grade. I know I’m not saying anything new here but they’re the closest thing we have to Zappa, sending up everything they love, without mercy. These guys are a national treasure. And like Zappa, just as scatologically obsessive.
D: Pass the Shinola, bro!

Shel Silverstein
The Best of Shel Silverstein
(Columbia/Legacy)
C: Speaking of national treasures, here’s a compilation of stuff by Shel Silverstein.
D: I must confess, I do not know him.
C: Sure you do. He wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends and Light in the Attic, which is like required reading for the young and intelligent. Funny poetry for kids, he does these hyperdramatic readings of them here—
D: Sounds like Joe Cocker’s creepy uncle—without his pants on.
C: Plus, he wrote story-songs like “Cover of the Rolling Stone” and “A Boy Called Sue”—
D: I know that one, of course—
C: —and then there’s tracks like this “I Got Stoned and Missed It” and this one by Dr. Hook, the orgy ode “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball.” [reciting lyrics] “Everybody’s kissing each other/brother with sister, son with mother/smear my body up with butter/take me to the freakers’ ball/pass that roach please/and pour that wine/I’ll kiss yours and you’ll kiss mine…”
D: Sounds like a pretty good time at the freakers’ ball.
C: “Well all the fags and the dykes/they are boogieing together/the leather freaks are dressed in all kinds of leather/The greatest of the sadists/and the masochists too/are screaming, ‘please hit me/and I’ll hit you’”… A funny guy into music, drugs, storytelling and kink—who drew gag cartoons for Playboy? He must’ve been the most popular dude alive in the ‘70s…
D: And looking at these pictures of him, I bet—
C: I know. Total human bonobo.

Devendra Banhart
Crippled Crow
(Beggars Banquet)
C: Devendra has a lot more hair on his head than Shel, but I think there’s a certain similarity in sensibility. Good times, weird times, you know he’s had his share.
D: He knows where the sidewalk ends.
C: So this is Devendra stretching it out in studio splendor, playing solo, playing with a band, playing a ton of acoustic guitar and piano songs. In English, in Spanish, in jest, in all seriousness, in duet…
D: [listening to “Now That I Know”] In the style of St. Nick Drake.
C: Such a range on the album as a whole, you can hear it in just the first five songs [out of the album’s 22]: whispers, tropicalia, a gentle piano protest lullaby, dreamytime-in-the-hash-den psychedelic-folk…
D: These songs… [listening to “Mama Wolf”] Every syllable is soothing, which is not something you hear done that often anymore. [seriously] Listen to me: Something magical is going on here.
C: Check out the singing, probably the best he’s ever done: that’s a guy who’s going for it in a heavy, trembling way—without losing it. He didn’t used to be able to sing like that. Incredible. And the lyrics, “Yeah when they come over the mountains/we’ll run yeah we’ll run right round them/we don’t have no guns/no we don’t have any weapons/just our cornmeal, and our children…”
D: I’m joining Devendra’s unarmed forces.

Silver Jews
Tanglewood Numbers
(Drag City)
D: [grimacing after a few seconds of the first song] I think I’m going to need three more beers. Immediately.
C: Don’t worry, I’ve got this one covered. [pulls out sheet of paper, clears voice] And to think this man formerly claimed he was nearly “hospitalized for approaching perfection”! Whatever D.C. Berman’s been smoking, his voice is shot. He once had a stentorian authority on par with Kristofferson and Robert Frost, now it’s lost. This might be a mere symptom of his decline —
D: Or the need for throat-coat tea and a personal trainer.
C: —or at least to mix the vocals up front—
D: Maybe he’s been freaking a bit too much at the freakers’ ball?
C: —but it dovetails with another problem, which is that since he is not a performing artist, he has never learned how to improve his craft by translating it live to an audience.
D: Which doesn’t help when it comes to making a record.
C: He now sounds as if he’s reading from a script rather than singing songs. His lyrics are great though, maybe as good as ever, like this choice couplet from “Sleeping Is the Only Love”: “I had this friend named Marc with a c / his sister was like the heat coming off the back of an old TV” altho’ his never ending quest for the ultimate bohunk cliche—”I’m getting back into getting back into you”—can be a little trying. There are a couple nice guitar moments, probably attributable to the Malk—
D: Who?
C: Steve Malkmus from Pavement, who’s on this album. [continuing] Otherwise the music is a detour-round-this junction of indie and bar band. Oh waitaminute, the seven-minute “The Farmer’s Hotel” is a sprawling gothic masterpiece: Breece D’J Pancake meets Stephen King meets Rick Brautigan in, apparently, a pernicious country inn where “there was no air of slumber/ there doors they had no numbers”…call it an analogue to being a Silver Jews fan: you can check in but you can never check out.

Sinead O’Connor
Throw Down Your Arms
(Sanctuary)
C: Sinead does an album of extremely faithful reggae covers, recorded in Kingston with Sly & Robbie. It had to happen.
D: [stroking chin, deep in thought] I believe Sinead was the first celebrity I’d ever heard of who checked herself into a rehab center for addiction to that demon weed. Sometime in the mid-‘90s, it was.
C: And didn’t she retire from the music industry a couple of years ago? So this is an interesting turn of events.
D: The main question is whether she has grown the dreads or not. The answer, thank Jah, would appear to be no.
C: I gotta say combining the stridency of the Irish with the righteousness of the Jamaican reggae artist doesn’t seem like the best strategy, and most of this album is the dull hybrid I feared it would be: too serious, too austere. Missing is the sense of playfulness.
D: She is just doing the songs she wants to do, without regard for what anyone else thinks.
C: Respect to her for that. It is weird to hear a woman with her range do songs that offer her so little room to exercise her pipes. You get the feeling that these are songs that she’s sung along to a thousand times…the versions are so faithful, at this point, she’s more of a mimic than an interpreter.
D: I think as usual you are being too hard. If you were sitting there and a girl across from you started playing “Downpressor Man” on acoustic guitar and singing, it’d be all over.
C: Her take on Lee Perry’s seduction ballad “Curly Locks” is certainly seductive.
D: And “Untold Stories.” And “Vampire.” Come on, man!
C: I’m just saying, when Sinead does an album of Ween covers, then we’ll really be getting somewhere.

Buckwheat Zydeco ils sont partis band
100% Fortified Zydeco
(Shout! Factory)
D: I am not what you would call an expert exactly, but I do not detect too much zydeco here.
C: It is pretty generic—I keep seeing John Belushi doing backflips down the center aisle. An authentic practitioner shouldn’t be caught delivering this stuff. Then again if I had an alligator po’ boy and a cup of Dixie Beer in my hand, I might have a different opinion.

Terry Reid
Superlungs
(Astralwerks)
C: The legendary Terry Reid gets a long-overdue compilation. A soul singer more than a rock singer, he came up in the ‘60s at the same time as Steve Marriott, Rod Stewart and all those guys. He’s best known as the guy Jimmy Page asked to front Zeppelin, who had to turn it down cuz of contractual obligations.
D: Doh!
C: They said Plant sang like a woman, and Terry Reid does too. Guess Page knew what he wanted. To paraphrase My Fair Lady,…
D: [singing] Why can’t a man sing more like a woman?
C: In that case, it’s a man singing like a woman singing like a man. In the tradition of Tina Turner and Mavis Staples or Inga Rumpf from German blues rockers Frumpy
D: This guy is a super-rocker. A mod-era master. He fucked it up, though.
C: Not as bad as Dave Mustaine. Better to have Led Zeppelin yelled at you on the street by the local smartcakes than Metallica.
D: [listening to “Stay With Me Baby”] Ian Gillan of Deep Purple totally took from his voice.
C: “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace” is unbelievable—the propulsive, tuneful, template for Slade, and by extension Oasis.
D: But Liam’s not a soul singer.
C: It’s very Faces. “Tinker Taylor” is the same thing. Word to the Djs out there: this is the only album you need to keep the dance party going…
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Reviews by C and D (Arthur No. 7/Nov. 2003)

Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (Nov. 2003)

REVIEWS BY C and D

The Hidden Hand
Divine Propaganda
(Meteor City)
C: This is Wino’s new band…
D: From St. Vitus! And the mighty Spirit Caravan!
C: This is prime Wino. Very focused. Full-on Sabbath power trio. Political eco-stoner stuff. “I feel the sky cracking/I feel the ice melting/I feel the world dying.”
D: Track 8 is an unstoppable beast!
C: “The Hidden Hand [theme].” Yeah, this is solid shit. Kinda conspiracy-minded. I mean, just look at the name of the band—
D: As we said in the days of old, these guys can carpet a good chair!
C: He put a suggested reading list in the CD tray, you don‘t see that too often with metalish bands. Edmund O. Wilson, The Future of Life… Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy… Wait a sec. David Icke?!?
D: Who is this guy?
C: That’s the British dude who sez that the world’s political and economic leaders are not humans, they’re actually reptiles from outer space working in a conspiracy together. Very V. I think he’s saying that 9/11 and its consequences were predicted in the pages of Alice in Wonderland. Obviously he’s onto something.
D: ?
C: I’m joking. But I wonder if Wino is in on the Icke joke. Seems like he’s taking it seriously…?
D: Wino is the best. But he looks totally different with a beard. I don’t know if I approve.

The Raveonettes
Chain Gang of Love
(Columbia)
D: Is this the new Jesus and Mary Chain album?
C: No, it’s this Swedish band called the Raveonettes.
D: Why don’t they just call themselves the Raveisionists?
C: Who do you think you would win in a rumble between these guys and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club?
D: Agh! I hate those Black Rebel guys! So boring live.
C: Their second album is terrible. I think it could be the end of the road for them. But who cares. The Raveonettes have a six-foot chick singer, I think she could take them out.
D: Swedish precision! There’s a Spector back beat jangle here.
C: Melodies and distortion, it always sounds good. You gotta cop to it, there’s some good stuff on here.
D: Yes, this song [“That Great Love Sound”] is good. But it’s nothing that will make you spill your ice cream on the floor.
C: …?

Ween
Quebec
(Sanctuary)
D: Incredible. Who is this?
C: Ween.
D: Each song? No, it can’t be. They are all so different
C: Yes. That’s what they do! I’ve been trying to get you to listen to them for years—
D: Every song is a population of musical influences of the last 20 years. It all sounds familiar but beautifully deranged. You don’t know where the sound comes from, it’s written down in the backpages of your brain and heart but you can’t locate it.
C: This song “Zoloft” is fantastic.
D: Zoloft—that’s some good stuff there. The doctor’s medicine is working. I’m seeing different colors in a different way. Yellow even is starting to look good.
C: Listen to this one [“Transdermal Celebration”]: it’s like an Oasis song except it’s really good.
D: None of those Anglo-Saxons can rock like Americans! [Listening to “So Many People In the Nieghborhood”] These guys are like the Residents, some of this stuff. But it’s also very melancholic. This song [“Among His Tribe”] cuts straight to the bone.
C: This one “Captain” is my favorite. Very Pink Floyd. Listen to those drums. He’s stuck on a spaceship and they WON’T GO BACK!
D: “Tried and True”—this is middle American melancholy. Another weightless psychedelic Byrds song. Record store clerks rejoice. They’re the best. They’re too good for me. It’s like Ian Curtis said, I looked behind the doors of time, there was nothing there to see.
C: ???
D: [still listening to “Tried and True”] …Is that a sitar?!? No.
C: Yes it is.
D: It cannot be.
C: They’re putting the India in Indiana.
D: Ween are a jukebox. One way not to disappear up your own ass is to disappear up others’.
C: Right… I guess that’s one way of looking at it.

Terry Hall & Mushtaq
The Hour of Two Lights
(Astralwerks)
C: This should be the soundtrack for that hookah place on Sunset’s sound system.
D: Yes! Exactly!
C: It’s the Specials guy. They sound like melancholy gypsies.
D: Dignified, beautiful.
C: Class, yeah? Two cultures, maybe three.
D: I like it! Let me look at the box.
C: It’s like a new kind of traditional music.
D: Yes… [thoughtful] Can we order some Indian food now?

Brant Bjork
Keep Your Cool
(Duna Records)
C: Brant Bjork from Kyuss and Fu Manchu and Mondo Generator’s new record.
D: Is that him singing?
C: [Nods ‘Yes.’] He’s playing all of the instruments too.
D: [Thumbs up.] Vintage ‘70s rock! And Thin Lizzy too! Wow. The reggae bass on “Searchin’”… scary. Reminds me of David Bowie. Or Blondie.
C: This is kinda Foghat, yeah? Plus the Cars… Here he is in falsetto… “Sister’s got the inside infoooooh!” He should do that more. Michael Jackson, almost. Very cool. This is really good, such a good feel, laidback. Compare this to that new Nebula album, ech. This is the good shit here.
D: I always liked him, Brant Bjork! Thanks for the Red Sun, Mr. Bjork.
C: Check this out: dude is putting the album out only on 12-inch vinyl. No CDs!

PFFR
United We Doth
(Birdman)
C: Bad Ween.
D: Sick.
C: I dunno, dude.
D: I love it. How did they get Snoop Dogg for this?
C: I think one of the PFFR guys is a South Park guy or something, that’s the word on the street. I don’t what street that is, but whatever, there you go. This sound like bad acid trip music. Very bad acid trip.
D: I love it.

The Rapture
Echoes
(Universal)
D: I know this. This is the Moving Units.
C: No, this is the Rapture.
D: They do the same thing.
C: Yeah, well… The Rapture have been going for a while longer, but yep it’s the same influences… Gotta say this is kinda disappointing. That one single on here from two years ago [“House of Jealous Lovers”] is cool but after a while…
D: It’s good but COMPLETELY unoriginal. Birthday Party. Pop Group. Gang of Four. They love that music.

Erase Errata
At Crystal Palace
(Troubleman Unlimited)
D: Same thing! I’m already sick of this. All of these people love the Pop Group. They love this music to DEATH.
C: It does seem pretty little limited on record. But you gotta admit it’s well done. This reminds me a whole lot of that amazing band Lilliput, you remember them? From Switzerland. Some of this stuff seems almost directly ripped. Well maybe they’ll get more interesting on the next record…
D: Lilliput, call your Swiss lawyers!!!

Pretty Girls Make Graves
The New Romance
(Matador)
D: (sighs) More of this stuff? Everybody likes the Pop Group. They like them too much.
C: I dunno, I think this is pretty good. I’d be curious to hear the next record, to see where they go.
D: Whatever. Can we listen to the new Kraftwerk again?

High Llamas
Beet, Maize & Corn
(Drag City)
C: [singing] “Orange crate art/is where it starts.” Oh wait, wrong album. This is pretty shameless Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, sheesh.
D: Take it off the CD player now.
C: All arrangement, no hooks… Beach Boys without harmonies or melodies–what’s the point? Nice wallpaper stuff, though. I think he could do good soundtrack music. Maybe with Alison Anders, this is her type of shit.
D: This guy should move to Nashville or go back in time to the Brill Building. ENOUGH! Turn it off NOW or I’m leaving.

Festival in the Desert
(World Village/Triban Union/Harmonia Mundi)
C: This is my favorite album out of the whole bunch.
D: This is Malian stuff, right?
C: Yes. This whole CD was recorded live at this festival in the desert, as you might’ve gathered from the title. Pretty amazing stuff.
D: [Listening to “Buri Baalal” by Afel Bocoum] So beautiful. Listen to how the women sing!
C: Yeah, see? This music has everything: melodies, chants…incredible rhythms… all those stringed instruments, I don’t even know what they are. Guitars, I guess.
D: Beautiful.
C: They’re doing a DVD of this, that should be amazing. Sand and candles and this music: what a setting. Tinariwen are on here, they’re amazing.
D: Those are the guys who sound like Junior Kimbrough right?
C: Exactly—the electric guitars are just like his, but I bet they never heard each other’s music. Makes you wonder how far back Junior’s music really goes… Ali Farke Toure’s on here too. And this Native American rock group Blackfire, they have this old guy singing all through it. The Robert Plant song is great.
D: [Listening to Tartit’s “Tihar Bayatin”] So hypnotic… This is the deep stuff, man. The deepest stuff. I’m serious.
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