In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Ween caters to no one. When it comes to creating music, they don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you believe in, or what offends you. Ween’s goals are clear: they are going to make the music they want to make and have an absolute blast in the process. As a result of this approach, we all reap the tremendous benefits.
Ween is the brain child of New Hope, Pennsylvania’s own Aaron Freeman, AKA Gene Ween, and Mickey Melchiondo Jr., AKA Dean Ween. Gene and Dean met in eighth grade and went on to develop a once-in-a-lifetime musical kinship. A portion of Ween’s brilliance is their ability to share an exact artistic vision, even though Gene and Dean bring two different personas to the band. Gener is a heart-on-his-sleeve, outspoken, singer/songwriter. While Deaner is a modest, toungue-in-cheek, hardcore rocker. The twist… they are both fucking crazy.
If you possess a good sense of humor and have the ability to laugh at the absurdities of everyday life and (more importantly) of yourself, kick back and bask in the greatness. With all of that said, let’s get this straight; Ween is hilarious, but they are no joke.
For the first ten years (1984-1994) of their career, Ween were pioneers in bedroom pop, using a drum machine, 4-track cassette player, and whatever else they could find lying around to create that “Awesome Sound” on thousands of home recordings (their studio: Deaner’s grandmother’s basement). Ween’s official portfolio consists of hundreds of songs from nine studio albums and six live albums. These albums, combined with their electrifying yet intimate live shows, have earned Ween a loyal following of millions.
Lyrically, Ween’s scope is infinite. They are impeccable story tellers, lyricizing scenes so vivid that they produce chills, tears, and/or nausea. They are also one of very few bands that possess a razor-sharp wit to go along with a drunken simian sense of humor. These traits cause listeners to either rejoice or wonder why the hell people like and even love these animals. Ween also has the ability to write a love song that will damage your soul and the skills to out-pop Carly Rae Jepsen.
Musically, Ween’s style is districtly their own. Gener’s voice range can be described as alien-falsetto to angry, sweaty truck driver-bass. Deaner plays guitar, god dammit. He’ll shred until your ears bleed, effortlessly pick an atmospheric celestial jam, or strum a traditional folk song to make you long for days of yore. Ween’s musical style is simply too diverse to classify, but what the hell? Here goes… Ween’s wheelhouse includes, but is NOT limited to, hard-driving heavy metal, ethereal instrumentals, sleazy lounge acts, always captivating (sometimes medieval) folk tales, ordering food at a Mexican drive-thru restaurant, and screaming muppet battle royales. Oh! And of course that phenomenal country album they made (out of nowhere).
Ween broke up in 2012 after twenty-five years of making music together. The break-up had nothing do with a toxic relationship between Gene and Dean (there wasn’t any) and everything to do with Gener’s years spent as a workaholic, combined with an arduous touring schedule and lifestyle. Basically, his identity had broken his person, and it was time to sacrifice the Gene Ween side and fix up the Aaron Freeman side. During their three-year hiatus, Aaron came out with two albums, one as “Aaron Freeman” and one as “Freeman,” and toured for both. He looked good and was making good music. Interestingly, he played mostly Ween songs during his live shows. One had to consider that with Ween’s long and incredibly rich history, once Aaron was ready, a reunion was very likely.
Then, just like that, “Gene Ween Does Billy Joel” shows in New York came across the wire. That was it: Gener was back, and a Ween reunion was inevitable. Millions of fans wanted it. Deaner wanted it. Phish (who made Ween a household name after covering Ween’s “Roses are Free”) wanted it, so by the grace of Boognish, Ween is back! Their tour will be starting February 12th in Broomfield, Colorado, with a bang: the band has just announced a 94-song set, with no repeats, over a three-night residency.
Here are six Ween covers, each one as different, fun, and weird as Ween is.
Ween – Hot For Teacher (Van Halen cover)
Live at Stubbs in 2000, Ween brought the house down with this all-time Van Halen classic. “Hot For Teacher” was made for two reasons. One, to cause every school-age boy in 1984 to question how and where they went wrong in life to not be attending the school in the music video. And two, for Ween to cover. Tip of the cap to Deaner for doing his best Eddie Van Halen impersonation on guitar, but I think he’d be the first to admit that no one is pulling off that solo besides Eddie.
Ween – Cold Blows The Wind (Traditional cover)
This is one of Ween’s very few studio album covers. From 1997’s The Mollusk, “Cold Blows The Wind” is a traditional English folk song that tells the story of a woman mourning the death of her one true love, as she “sits and weeps down by his grave.” This morbidly beautiful cover shows the more serious side of Ween that has been periodically revealed throughout their career. “Cold Blows The Wind” remains a fan favorite.
Ween – Punky Brewster (“It’s Punky Brewster” theme song cover)
1985 brought us a bizarre spin-off cartoon series based on the television sitcom Punky Brewster called, oddly enough, It’s Punky Brewster. The original version of the It’s Punky Brewster theme song (a Cyndi Lauper-like “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” clone) must have made an impression on young Aaron, because years later during The Mollusk sessions, he was inspired to lay down this minute-long falsetto’d BPM outtake cover track of it.
Ween – Stella Blue (Grateful Dead cover)
Ween has always had an affinity for the Grateful Dead, particularly Jerry Garcia. This is evidenced here by Gener channeling his inner Garcia to knock this gorgeous live cover of “Stella Blue” out of the park.
Ween – If I Close My Eyes Forever (Lita Ford feat. Ozzy Osborne cover)
Every child of the ’80s remembers Lita Ford’s 1988 smash hit, the hair metal ballad “Close My Eyes Forever,” featuring the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. On this bloody raw outtake from The Pod sessions, Gener goes all out by singing the parts of both Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford. It’s hard not to find Gener’s Lita Ford impersonation hilarious, but his Ozzy is spot on.
Ween – The Shot Heard ‘Round The World (Schoolhouse Rock cover)
Just as you’ve made up your mind that Ween is too out-there and not the band for you, they’ll turn around and give you an American history lesson, then teach your kids how to tie their shoes. Tread lightly, my friends.
Check out ween.com for tour dates, extensive media, and awesome merch.