La Cucaracha – Ween
Rounder Records 11661-9077-2
Can I say I miss the drugs? Because as far as Ween records are concerned, I think I miss the drugs. I miss those agro-fied huffers swimming in the swollen-headed haze who shat out offensive inanities like "The HIV Song." I miss the sick-and-wrongness of "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)," which impossibly both offends your sensibilities and yanks fitfully at your heartstrings. I miss the off-the-cuff weirdness of "Mister Won't You Please Help My Pony" and the what-the-fuck-was-thatness of "Touch My Tooter." Others would go further, would argue that all those songs sprouted after the drugs wore off, after the mind-fuck of GodWeenSatan had swallowed its allotment of souls. Ween once wrote such good songs and played such good shit that you imagined them as those shatter-brained fuck-ups in the back of the high school classroom who could have fought it out for valedictorian if they hadn’t spent all their time recording fart sounds and smoking the rubber off their high-tops. Now… well, now they’re just shells of those sole-smokin’ clowns.
They're billing La Cucaracha as a return to form, by which they mean a return to the freakish beauty of Chocolate and Cheese, a record which gobbled genres and tropes and spat them out in Weenic gloops that stuck to the walls and slithered on down. I wish they hadn’t made the comparison. La Cucaracha is a fine record, but it’s sure as hell no Chocolate and Cheese. It gives you the surreal druggy drift of "Blue Balloon," some infantile and farcical misogynist metal in "My Own Bare Hands," and a truly creepy first-person stalker/slasher tune in "Object." (Those are good things, but you knew that, right?) If you’re to take the album as a whole though, you’ve got to swallow the excruciating "Friends," (If it’s a painful send-up of painful Euro-dance club music, does that make it effective… or just painful?) and the inane opener "Fiesta" (which sounds like the theme song for a fictional Mexico invented by culture-blind advertisers). You’ve got to sit through the occasionally rockin’ but mostly just bloated eleven-plus minute EPIC "Woman and Man," which proves that prog-rock is both long-winded and pretentious (!) and the just-go-away dribble of "Spirit Walker."
Part of the problem I suppose is that the genres they are sending up are not to my taste, but I can't take all the blame. Sometimes, the songs just aren't up to snuff. I'm willing to admit, for example, that "Lullaby" might be that song that — for someone sensitive soul out thereproves that Ween can write beautiful music when they choose to do so. For me, it just sounds like that over-hyped and obnoxious Antony and the Johnson's record. "Sweetheart in the Summer" may be the lovely little summer delight the title suggests, but it's cheap confection of the here-and-gone variety, and while there's something irresistible about the "do-do-doobalip-doobalip-doobalip-doo" of "Learnin' to Love," it doesn't do anything better than the ten tracks on 12 Golden Classics. In a dozen ways, it’s telling that David Sanborn (yeah—that David Sanborn) saunters into the album’s closer, "Your Party," with his saxxy-ass self. We’re supposed to be delighting in the levels of irony. Either Sanborn does or doesn’t realize that he’s the butt of the joke, and it doesn’t really matter. Or better still, there’s no joke at all and the Ween-ers just dig his saxxy ass. But the in-joke tee-hee ha-ha of it only takes us so far. Somewhere under there we’ve got to have a song, and "Your Party" is nothing more than a swanky, pleathery mood.
All of which is to say, I wish no one had ever brought up Chocolate and Cheese (and that means you Deaner and you Mister Rounder Records Guy and you Mister Guy Who Recommended This To Me). Doing so stripped me of my ability to take these songs at face value by inviting the comparison before I’d heard a note. I was perfectly happy living in my world of depressed expectationsa world where albums like the totally listenable White Pepper or Quebec were enough. La Cucaracha stacks up just fine beside this post-millennial output, but they had to go and compare it to Chocolate and Cheese, which is unfair to most any LP. The comparison is intended to prop up the new record, but what it does instead if prove to us that Weeneven when they’re really tryingjust don’t have another classic record in them. Maybe it burned up with the rubber sole after all.