Eatin' Raw Bacon

Ween is once again a band on the run.

Dope-smoking wisenheimers all over Tucson were abuzz in an uncharacteristically non-chemical way over news that surfaced at July's ides: They're coming.

As word of an August show spread faster than a speeding mullet, you could feel something else, too--validation. All the quasi-degenerates with a suspect lifestyle and a bong they've nicknamed (e.g. "King Bong" or "Mike Tyson") could stand a little taller now that their heroes--Dean and Gene Ween--were on the way to town.

If Ween didn't exist it'd have to be created. It's as if the entity "Ween" was made manifest by the accumulated unmet desires of all the abject slackers who ever thought, "If only I could get paid for doing this," while noodling on guitar and cracking dick jokes. Brought together by suburban ennui in 1984, Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, as they are known to their parents, never guessed they would one day become the Gilbert and Sullivan of goof-rock.

To Ween-heads, the story is well-known. After being "created" by the Boognish (the "god" of all things brown), the band was first signed by Twin-Tone in 1990, releasing one album before putting out the seminal The Pod on Shimmydisc. Its early recordings were all done at home, straight to four-track.

At first listen, it was hard to believe the songs were all the work of the same band, which illustrates the Ween aesthetic perfectly. Ween has done pisstakes of everyone from Prince (well-known as one of their faves) to Phil Collins to Queen to the Beatles.

But the song's the thing with Ween. Unlike simple parodists, the boys set out to write great songs as they gently mock their forebears--all of them. Says Lily Taylor-lookalike Melchiondo in Magnet: "We're not trying to imitate good music--we're trying to make good music."

Ween was signed to Elektra records in 1992, which is still its home. Over the years it's matured, and experimented with styles (notably on 12 Golden Country Greats), but it has yet to suck.

No small amount of Ween's appeal derives from its seeming (in fact, actual) regular-guydom. There isn't the same distance between Ween and its fans as in the typical idol/idolator relationship. Part of this approachability comes from the duo's humble beginnings as two suburban boneheads making tapes for their own amusement. Part of it comes from their subject matter, because most "stars" (except maybe Barney) don't sing about their favorite foods or talking sea creatures. Mainly, it's that they seem like good time Charlies (is it the perpetual grins?) that people want desperately just to hang with, and the tendency to indulge fans has occasionally gotten Ween in trouble.

As Mickey ("Dean") related in Bizarre magazine, "[A] million times we've gone home with fans ... but for every one of those [good nights], I can think of five instances where I went with someone to buy drugs or something, and it turned into a nightmare. You end up ... going back to [some kid's] filthy-ass apartment, and there's two people playing video games."

Aside from an in-the-works studio album, Dean and Gene have been keeping busy. There's the theme music for the recently-renewed Fox sitcom Grounded for Life to record (who knew?). They've also contributed a Weenified version of the Atlanta Rhythm Section's "classic," "Champagne," to the soundtrack of the hotly anticipated Mr. Show movie, Run Ronnie Run.

There's a new album due out by Z-Rock Hawaii (Ween's second collaboration with Boredom's Eye and Yoshimi), and a totally remastered version of God Ween Satan--The Oneness, the group's first record, that includes three bonus tracks. Deaner swears it sounds a million times better. "I'm not just saying that because I want you to buy it, either; the difference is really like night and day."

As with the recent Ben Folds show at the Rock, Ween is not touring behind a new album (its most recent being 2000's pop gem The White Pepper), but instead is using this West Coast mini-tour to fine-tune new material for its next album (tentatively scheduled for release in early '02). Ween may be a little bitter about the itinerary, though, going from Alaska straight to the ninth circle of Hell--Southern Arizona in August. It'll be all right, though, once they recognize that it's a dry heat.

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