Ween

Quebec (Sanctuary)

Crank up this album, with its ripping, Motörhead-hearted opener "It's Gonna Be a Long Night" closely followed by the band's trippy dippy salute to "Zoloft," with feel-good platitudes and soothing helicopter sounds whooshing from speaker to speaker, and people'll ask, "What the hell is this?" Tell them it's Ween, and then they'll pull an about face and say, "Oh, that's all right then." What is it about Ween that lets them get away with musical murder while no one questions the whereabouts of They Might Be Giants? It helps that Gene and Dean Ween's lampoons of other artists are spot-on -- witness the album's closer "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)" that neatly sends up The Wall with quiet Dave Gilmour murmurs and Roger Waters screeds. Even at their most infantile, as when they're singing "can you dig my soul, can you smell my whole" and pausing a couple of beats before adding "life," a song like "Tried and True" doesn't grow tiresome because Ween surrounds it with just enough creepy distraction.

While Quebec starts off sounding like the best Ween album ever, a distillation of White Pepper polish and GodWeenSatan weirdness, with some 12 Golden Country Greats shitkicking on the side, it turns out to be a mildly disappointing opus that ping-pongs between pop accessibility and the more boring aspects of their progressive rock obsessions. Unlike the smooth sailing concept album The Mollusk, Quebec hits several coral reefs, like the brooding "Captain," which consists of the mantra "Captain, turn around and take me home" over and over. Some of the album's humor relies heavily on song placement. There's nothing weird or funny about "I Don't Want It," which could be a long-lost track from America's Greatest Hits, yet it sits between the hooray for doo-doo anthem "Chocolate Town" and "The F**ked Jam," a motormouthed Martian bulletin punctuated by dead silences that's funny the first time you hear it and annoying every time after. Despite some semi-serious moments, Ween has not lost its funny bone in Quebec -- it's at least their most menacing set since Chocolate & Cheese, when they made AIDS and spinal meningitis uncomfortable laughing matters.

 
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