You may have to be invested in Gener to fully appreciate this one. And I was. Am. Have been since my Ween obsessed twenties – fueled by transfixing live shows at Tramps, Bowery and Irving Plaza. They were visceral, clever, irreverent, over-the-top with serious musical and technical chops. All without becoming stereotypically psychedelic – even during long-ass bloozey jams exposing Dean Ween as the Mile’s-Fuckin-Davis guitarist he is.
By the time I got into Gene and Dean Ween, they were making progress along Malcolm Gladwell’s ten-thousand hours with a laser focus on putting original music onto tape. While I was aware of their MTV hit “Push th’ Little Daisies,” I didn’t hop aboard until ’94’s Chocolate and Cheese. By that point, they were making music together ten years and hit a real stride artistically, amassing something of a cult following of those in the know.
During their 25 years, Ween/Ween wrote songs as trippy as Lennon/McCartney, as poppy as Tilbrook/Difford and even more punk than Rotten/Vicious. Funk and country? These two are made of music – but they add a lot of fuel on the fire to keep the engine hot and are quite used to playing to crowds twice as high as fuck. Ween fans make Phish fans look like Bronies. Sucking whippets out of balloons? What the what?
After too many blackouts, and a very public meltdown onstage in Vancouver, Gener pulled the plug in 2012. He got sober and released a straight-faced album of Rod McKuen covers under his real name Aaron Freeman, then the EP Gener’s Gone to raise some cash. Meanwhile, Dean (Mickey Melchiondo, aka Mickey Moist) played guitar and drums on another Moistboyz album, jammed, and started touring in advance of the debut from The Dean Ween Group.
Freeman finds Freeman in some familiar territory, if you paid attention to the two or three tracks per Ween record where playing it straight was its own version of brown. The tracks have more in common with the sensible pop of Chocolate Town and Stay Forever than to the more challenging Let Me Lick Your Pussy or Reggaejunkiejew.
“Covert Discretion” opens, sounding something like James Taylor from the neck down. Uncharacteristically literal, it recounts Gener’s meltdown on stage from a victim’s perspective.
“Another chance now,
I’m on the stage again
but this time I don’t fly.
You all just left me, just walked away,
alone up there to die.”
Ultimately blossoming into the Queen-esque crescendo “Fuck you all, I’ve got a reason to live and I’m never gonna die.” Its one of my favorite moments on record this year.
Otherwise, aggression is in short supply. Geners gone granola and it suits him. He seems more interested in beautifully engineered tracks like “Delicate Green” and “For A While I Couldn’t Play My Guitar Like a Man“ than in raising hell. The later could fit nicely on Dire Strait’s ’78 debut. As usual, Aaron’s vocals inhabit the character of the song from way inside it. Ween fans looking for familiar weirdness may only find it in these type of vocal choices – and in Seussian lyrics to songs like “Black Bush” and “Golden Monkey.”
If you look hard enough, you may spot ol’ Gener in the plodding “Give Me One More” and the Hill Street Blues-flavored “English and Western Stallion.” Like Waters without Gilmour, there’s an expectation that couldn’t possibly be met but the future looks clean and bright for Freeman. And if both Aaron and Mickey can keep themselves alive, I have no doubt the gravity of their partnership will pull them back together one day. My money is on 2018. I look forward to lots of music from both camps in the meantime.
The English and Western Stallion
All the Way to China