Ween – La Cucuracha

La Cucuracha is Ween's unbelieveable 11th release, their first LP of new material exclusively through their own Chocodog label. It's one disc, black, 180 gram vinyl in a gate-fold sleeve, recorded to two inch 24 track tape, produced and mixed by Andrew Weiss.

I'm not saying you'll immediately like this on first listen, even as a Ween fan, it's like every other release… it will sneak up on you and become an epic journey of a thousand albums. But like with my introduction to Ween through 'Push the little daisies' from Pure Guava, it's not meant to be heard one song at a time, it won't make any sense. This is a lifetime of work exploring sounds and genres, appreciating the unappreciated, kicking the dead horse one more time, finding something interesting in a dance club hit or in the legacy of square dance hoedowns.

With this album they are continuing to record on a more mature produced path, leaving the ultra low-fi 4-track, pitch shifted vocals sound behind them in favor of a barn turned permanent studio and room-fulls of equipment. How else can they explore and deconstruct every music genre, without every tool available on the planet?

La Cucaracha begins appropriately enough with Fiesta, and legendary smooth jazz alto saxophonist David Sanborn who ended up being a ween fan and after being contacted by the appreciative band and agreeing to contribute insane saxophone solos to this track and 'Your Party'.
The unapologetic electronic horn sound works to immediately ground this in it's ridiculousness. There are the showoff sounds and presets on any keyboard or drum machine, the demo settings that just make you think, 'Who the fuck would use this sound?', it's so loaded in a particular time or place. These are the building blocks for Weens exploration. Overall Fiesta is just an instrumental south of the border quirky number until somewhere towards the end the recorded track is compressed for a second back in on itself exponentially into just electronic noise, and we're reminded again who we're dealing with.

The thing that saves every song and Ween itself from complete novelty is the tongue in cheek attitude of their seriousness. You can just hear the joke behind every line, you can picture every scene from every video. But all this genre hopping and homage is a testament to their musicianship, their appreciation of music history and at the same time deconstructing it piece by piece.

They can be a guilty pleasure… you'd have to have real balls to blast 'Friends' while driving around the neighborhood, it's so sickeningly techno and sincere, and the lyric You're the friend that I've been searching for out of context won't make sense to anyone not in on the joke. I have to think this was a result of some kind of bet about making a techno dance track that's the polar opposite of the usual subject matter of getting a piece on the dance-floor. Instead they're looking for a friend.

The music drives the lyrics, it starts with a drum track of unused sounds, or a random guitar riff, the resulting mood will determine what they're going to sing about. They are a perfect example of the long tail theory, it's not for everyone. But every piece of Ween ephemera is battled over on eBay daily. They have more than their share of of people willing to fund their musical experimentation well into the days of greatest hits and interview picture discs, especially in the form of vinyl.

'My Own Bare Hands' is that fist pumping classic rock track complete with a spaced out guitar solo. Channeling Motorhead they're yelling about all the things they can do with their bare hands. Of course it's not long before Ween goes to that blatant place of political incorrectness with 'I will be your lawn mower and cut your fucking grass… suck my fucking dick!'. But isn't that what all of this type of cock rock is getting at? Let's cut to the chase, it's to get chicks. There's no big thought behind this, they don't want to work day jobs, they can't do everything else. Ween can conjure up these narratives behind every song.

On 'The fruit man' they have this tendency to include a reggae/dub inspired track on nearly every album, and as a genre I'm really ignorant in, it's always the least enjoyable. I can appreciate the surface elements, but most of the joke is lost on me. It's funny that they use these un-reggae sounds of huge kick drum hits, glass breaking, whistles, scrolling through the unused factory presets on the drum machine, hitting every one. All I can imagine is that it's the most challenging to try to hit some kind of honesty, to distill it down to it's essential elements.

The ballad doesn't even stand a chance on the next track, 'Spirit Walker', the closing track on the B-side. A wavering electronic filtered vocal line plays over this acoustic somber slow dance feel complete with flute/synth accompaniment. It's heartfelt and completely ludicrous at the same time.

On the B side 'Woman and Man' is the standout epic track starting out with a dead on Bowie influenced layered, high off pitch vocal story.
The theme is so insanely all encompassing, the beginning of humankind, starting from nothing however many millions of years ago, and it takes all 10 minutes to work through the primal relationships of the creation of women and men, all through this 70's progressive rock journey.
from rib and from monkey
half became the whole
a race of man and woman

An unironic bongo solo with brushed snare and cowbell drives the song into full jam mode. Just as the hokey intro is over we're driven into a sickening Santana solo that echoes endlessly. These are the kind of lyrics you know some stoned guy is saying 'Seriously, they are totally right, it's like the ocean is just covering all this land…' You know you're not supposed to take this seriously, but Ween is forcing you to.

The final nail in the coffin of this cultural music parody is 'Your party' supposedly inspired by wanting to write a song about where they are as older established musicians with families and the dinner parties they find themselves at. 'Woman and Man' ends with machine gun fire by a crashing ocean that leads into this mumbling party scene.
there were candy and spices
and tricolored pastas…
We had the best time at your party
the wife and I thank you very much
David Sanborn's constant saxophone solos scream sincere 1980's slow jazz LA law pastel turtleneck nightmare and you're transported back to this 80's excess of neon and marbled mirrors.

Ween is drawing from a vast library of thankfully forgotten sounds, but it isn't all built on popularizing the unknown, more like acknowledging the inherent stupidity in entire genres music. The popular songs that are taken for granted. The sounds that have built in so many other meanings. Ween never stoops to make fun or parody an individual but an entire lifestyle associated with a song. A commentary on modern smooth jazz or dance reggae dub. They simultaneously destroy it completely and make it relevant somehow. These are the discarded riffs from other bands as too derivative. They're is picking through the junk-pile and making it something, willing it back into existence.
They are the masters of creating a mood and really selling it if you are willing to accept the sheer outrageousness of it all.

Gary Reynolds and the Brides of Obscurity – Santiago’s Vest

I don't know much about this singer and band.

 

Its a quirky mixture of sonically interesting experimentation and big big choruses. Its mainly guitar and percussion driven but brings in plenty of organ and some Cello to keep things off the beaten track.

'Capital state' is a slightly paranoid ball of tension, led along nicely by solo piano, haunting vocals and organ. 'Everybody's somewhere' brings in some gorgeous Beach Boy style harmonies that will definitely having you singing along. The pumping percussion and slightly retro sound reminds me somewhat of Supergrass.

'Rolling over' drags us from this reverie into an electric organ spiced three and a half minutes of building repetitive tension. More chiming choruses and tinkling organ ring in the end of side one on 'Wall eyed girl'.

Flip it over and we start off with another jolly singalong, Mrs Lowe. I'm not sure what this is reminding me of but it sounds very familiar and I can't stop stomping my foot and shaking my body. This is in a good way 🙂 Some lovely piano on this as well. 'Where do we go from here' sounds like a continuation.

 We seem to delve into heavy metal territory on 'You are what you see'. A strong guitar riff is sometimes interrupted by a mellower sound, then concentrating on Gary's vocals before kicking in again.A bit of a mosher one this. Would go down great in the gigs.

 'Who do you love' is almost Japan like in its spartan approach. But then it kicks in. 'Wake up sugar' is a lovely cello led ballad to end the album.

 

Gary's vocals are quite raspish which are sometimes effective and sometimes annoying. They are probably exaggerated by the actual recording which is quite harsh. Presumably digital and possibly compressed.

 

Musically its a very interesting album. There are a wide variety of styles and/or influences. Its cinematic at times, straight ahead rock at others. Possibly the closest match is Supergrass with the same shared love of sixties influences and harmonies. And organ! There are musical twists and inflexions all over which keep the listener interested.

 

Its a decent pressing on standardweight vinyl. Interesting picture sleeve but the record is housed ina  normal white paper sleeve. Its a small label and I guess they need to keep costs down. As mentioned above the recording or mastering is quite harsh and would actually stop me from listening repeatedly. Perhaps for their next release they should pay more attention here.

 

Essential records

This is intended to be an ongoing and updated list of records that not only have wonderful music but marvellous sonics as well. The kind of record you put on the platter and sit back and think wow! This should be a list for those new turntable purchasers who want to impress themselves with their purchase 🙂
Please email in your suggestions to mailto:vf@a1linux.com

Details are correct as far as we know.

Yello – Flag – 1988 – Mastered by Kevin Metcalfe – Analogue
Simply stunning sound from this release. All of Yello's records are impressive sounding but they really pushed the boat out on this one.

Dead can Dance – Into the Labyrinth – 1993 – – Digital
A gorgeous blend of folk and music from around the world. Also check out 1996's Spiritchaser. DCD always impress mightily with their sound, both on disc and in concert.

Dave Brubeck – Time Out – 1959 – – Analogue
One of the most famous jazz albums. Always sounds gorgeous. I have a Scorpio 180grm pressing which sounds great. Apparently the Classic records reissue sounds better. And if you can get an original in good conditon well…

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959 – – Analogue
The quintessential Jazz album.

Bryan Ferry – Bete Noire – 1987 – Bob Ludwig – Analogue
Probably the pinnacle of Ferry's experimentation. Again this recoird sounds great and is full of twists and ideas.

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden – 1988 – – Analogue
Essential on any format and mind blowing on vinyl. The timbre and organic depth of the instrumentation is immaculate. Hollis' voice can be a bit scary at times though.

The following records were added by Jason Liles

Brian Eno –
Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy
Ambient 1 " Music For Airports
Another Green World
The Pearl

Bedhead –
Transaction de Novo

Low –
Things We Lost In The Fire
The Curtain Hits The Cast

Red House Painters –
S/T

Flaming Lips
In A Priest Driven Ambulance
Transmissions From The Satellite Heart

Mercury Rev –
Boces

Yo La Tengo
Painful

Galaxie 500
Today

Pavement –
Crooked Rain Crooked Rain

Talking Heads
Fear of Music

Radiohead
Kid A

TALKTALK
Laughing Stock

More to come!