Forgive the amateur translation, but the words of the old Mexican folk song “La Cucaracha” go something like this: “The cockroach, the cockroach / Can’t walk anymore / Because it doesn’t have / Marijuana to smoke.”
Ween supposedly made an album sober for the first time ever, and it can’t function, either, robbed of its once-great songwriting ability.
Ween has always found success with its uncanny ability to excel in a parade of musical genres, reaching from hallucinogenic pop to satisfying nuggets of immature potty rock. That means that when it fails, Ween not only delivers pedestrian songcraft but amounts to a self-parody, an embarrassing prospect for a band lampooning everyone else.
“Object,” “Spirit Walker” and “Lullaby” are all half-hearted attempts at pop balladry, complete with flat-lining melodies and anti-climatic choruses. The slightly more upbeat “Blue Balloon” seems poised to go somewhere, but after meandering to its four-minute conclusion, this glorified segue track might as well serve as the score for an unremarkable dream sequence.
Even Ween’s trademark, goofy and offensive songs, (die-hard fans describe them as “brown”) exhibits all the same failures. The gross-out, faux hard rock of “My Own Bare Hands” is uninspired, and “The Fruit Man” is basically an atonal reggae version of “Blue Balloon.” Worse still is “Learnin’ to Love,” an annoying, synthetic country stomp that pretty much insults the actual gems on 12 Golden Country Greats, sounding more like an outtake from a bad Paul McCartney album.
The nadir is the album’s closing track. Guilty of all the aforementioned sins, “Your Party” outdoes itself with a set of bad. Whereas the stoned, think-with-your-spine stupidity of old Ween songs like “Pollo Asado” (the lyrics were a drive-through taco order) is actually funny, the content of “Your Party” (a firsthand account of a middle-aged dinner party) is just stale. Couple this with plastic adult contemporary jazz, and – you get the point.
Even the few successful songs aren’t without flaws. The instrumental mariachi rave-up “Fiesta” and the pop-punk parody “Shamemaker” are both fun and catchy, but unfortunately both tracks are built around nearly identical guitar patterns. The best track is probably the dance-pop “Friends,” although the antecedent version that lent its name to July’s The Friends EP is superior to the watered-down remix here.
Ween used to be able to masquerade as a pop, rock, R&B, country, prog or psychedelic band while actually compiling a deep body of work that catapulted it into an indefinable category. Here, it’s made music no better than the music it parodies. While the group used to get sky-high with every album, this time, they’ve come down to everyone else’s level.
Rating: 1.5/5 stars