The key to being a (I'm just gonna go ahead and say it here; we're discussing Ween for God's sake) successful smart-ass is never letting on when you're joking. With that in mind, perhaps Ween will announce the impending release of their new album next week. They will almost certainly announce the dates of their new tour in a couple years, though it might be better for all parties concerned if they don't. After all, Ween were a band built largely upon spot on, unflinching musical genre parodies and the ingestion of anything not tied down that could fit into the mouth. And for everyone who chooses to travel down that road, a point arises when it has passed from questionable idea to very bad plan. Ween hit that point over a decade ago, and only with the news of the band's break-up has it become apparent that this isn't just some joke from a band waiting around the corner ready to laugh at us when we believe them.
It is now 2012, 28 years after two fourteen-year-olds decided to form a band, and fifteen years after they released their last good studio album. So what is the big deal? Well, that would be what came in the middle. In a span of eight years, Ween released six albums that ranged from absolutely brilliant to completely unlistenable, each of which was fairly mind-blowing even to those of us out there who plumb the varying ranges of sobriety. Beyond this, they recorded what seems to be an equal number of brilliant pieces which didn't even make their albums proper, spread out across soundtracks, compilations, EPs and probably their garage sales if they ran low on funds for drugs (Though even I wouldn't pay for the masters for Candy). This period saw them inexplicably given a major label deal which they responded to by recording their most bizarre album ever, which resulted in Push th' Little Daisies getting actual money pushing it on MTV, a situation which probably had some suits soiling their drawers at Elektra. The duo then became a full band, for the first time sounding as if they were recording songs that were clearly written on a load of drugs while actually fairly sober. Then they released a country album. It was a remarkably fertile creative span, and one that gave them a massive catalog to draw from during their marathon live performances, songs that stayed perenially fresh as the band changing from two guys with a drum machine to a five-piece rock powerhouse forced them to reconstruct the songs for each new stop along the way. And they toured those songs hard.
Every time they put out a new album, and quite a few times that they didn't, for the last decade, Ween would set out to play every town in America that would allow them to display their particular blend of drunken genre-hopping and jamming, playing gloriously extended versions of their songs that they inevitably seemed unlikely to remember upon waking up the following day unless someone had fortuitously taped the proceedings. And many times, it turned out someone had. And then Ween would release the tape. All in all, they wound up releasing six live albums over ten years. Granted, some of these were old tapes documenting prior iterations of the band's career, and they were usually somewhere between very good and excellent. But man, that is a lot of live albums for a span of years which only saw them release three proper studio records. That should probably have been the clue that the party was nearing its end. That and the rumors of rehab which constantly dogged the band. But every time the rumors seemed to threaten to overtake them they were back onstage, and look how much fun they're having! Of course they're still going.
At least until they weren't. It ended the only way it could, with most of the band not being aware of it. It happened after one of their last stage performances ended in a complete meltdown. It happened five years after their last studio album, without even any rumors of another one in the works. And when it happened it became apparent that they had actually been done for years. This is perfectly okay.
During their heyday, Ween had more ideas than they knew what to do with, throwing out brilliance and trash at a rate not seen since Robert Pollard lost the ability to write five songs on the can, three of which would be good (He can, however, still write five songs while in the can). And this furious pace is what keeps them alive. That track a couple lines above didn't make it onto one of their studio albums. Also, it is a gorgeous ballad. Yes, they did that. They also did everything else. How well and how fast they did it made it possible to ignore the obvious with each passing year after the release of The Mollusk, when it became apparent that the brilliance would be concentrated only in flashes rather than sprinkled over the bulk of their recorded output going forward. There was simply so much to catch up on. Sure, the entire second half of Quebec was incredibly dull, but have you heard this new collection of previously unreleased material? They've still got it!
While it seems inevitable that Ween will tour again down the road, it is entirely possible that they shouldn't. The odds of them releasing music that adds to their legacy seems very slim, outweighed by the possibility that the combination of Dean and Gene Ween may no longer be good for people who at this point in life may have a greater need for sobriety than they used to. If they do come back, it will generate money, not art. Until they die, they will likely enjoy playing music together, even if they no longer have any reason to record music together. Even if they shouldn't play music together anymore. When they do reunite, they will put on a fun concert, but it will be a nostalgia-laden exercise, as it has been for years now. There's nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia here and there, but it cannot compare to the sheer joy of diving into the things the duo did in the past and hearing them communicate through a prog-rock epic that sounds like it is being written from the point of view of a child molester the simple message that they cannot believe they are being paid to do this. We had the best time at their party. I choose to thank them like this. By writing about them on the internet (Naughty words in the video below).