Fantastic piece, Michael. Especially loved the descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of Trey and Pete’s playing. (And how bout that groove-prog breakdown in “Sworn to the Black”?) Thanks for praising the production as well — death metal has never been rendered in such savage fidelity since.
‘Covenant’ is not only my favorite death-metal album; it’s my favorite metal album, period, and one of most-treasured records in any style. It sounded world-swallowing when I first heard it in ’93 and it sounds every bit as powerful today. Hail.
Thank you for including the Cannibal Corpse record. Worried that too many folks are taking that one for granted! The Asphyx seemed to get a little more love this year, but another thanks for top-10-ing that; it’s an incredible album.
My sense is that we’ll be hearing a lot about Pallbearer’s overratedness as “Majesty and Decay” continues to pop up on year-end lists both metal-centric and non-. Is “M&D” a groundbreaking or even very novel record? No, sir. Is it an insanely addictive record of deep, beautiful, affecting songs? Yes, and thus all the fuss is warranted. Looking outside the metal sphere, Japandroids’ “Celebration Rock” is a similar kind of album, i.e., easy to underestimate in theory, but pretty much impossible to deny while it’s actually playing.
Btw, my No. 1 record of the year (metal or otherwise), to be revealed soon, doesn’t appear on the main list but is cited in your intro…
P.P.S. I forgot to thank Mark Bryan Bennett just above for mentioning Z-Rock Hawaii. While it’s not a proper Ween album, it’s an essential part of the Gene/Dean saga. Key tracks: “Tuchus” and the awesome/terrifying “God in My Bed” –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiR70e6lLmQ
Here’s a quick Z-Rock-related interview I did w/ Eye from the Boredoms, an outtake from the C&C book: http://darkforcesswing.blogspot.com/2011/03/ween-outtake-q-with-eye-of-boredoms.html
Hank S. here. Just wanted to (A) thank everyone for their comments, both positive and negative and (B) address a few of the points raised above.
Lots of folks are crying foul re: the relatively low rankings for The Pod and Pure Guava, and I completely understand that. As I point out in the writeup for The Pod, these albums are indeed the purest distillation of brownness, or however you choose to describe the Freeman/Melchiondo collaboration at its most elemental. But the overarching question I asked myself when compiling this list was, “What are Ween’s best albums?” (Or more specifically: “What do I think are their best albums, having lived with their catalog for close to 20 years?” The “I think” part is key; this is all just one fan’s opinion.) The question wasn’t, “What are Ween’s most quintessentially Ween-ish albums?”
To put it another way, if I were ranking the Bob Dylan catalog—that would be an awesome and incredibly daunting project btw…—I wouldn’t put a record like Freewheelin’ first just because it features some of Dylan’s most iconic and “Dylany” songs, the ones that established his sound in the first place. I’d probably be more likely to go with something like Blood on the Tracks, an older, wiser and, I’d argue, more interesting statement—not the quintessential Dylan record, the one that made Dylan Dylan, but maybe the best in a broader, non-insular sense. To me, that’s what Quebec is in the Ween discography. The Pod and Pure Guava are undeniably Ween’s formative, foundational records, but that’s not the same thing as saying they’re the best. I’d say more or less the same of God Ween Satan. I completely understand that, as Ween’s full-length debut, it holds great sentimental value, but I think that song-for-song, it’s weaker than every other Ween record aside from 12GCG. (More specifically, I think that Ween left GWS in the dust even by the time of The Pod, its immediate follow-up.)
Re: Quebec at No.1: Maybe the coolest thing about being a Ween fan, for me, has been first hearing Pure Guava as a teenage stoner, forming a certain impression of the band as this silly, low-tech duo and then much later on in life having that impression completely decimated by the very heavy, very adult vibes Gene and Dean started throwing down, specifically on Quebec. I know Dean has gone on record describing how much unhappiness went into that album. While it feels somewhat perverse to love a work that you know sprung from great pain, that kind of desperation, transformed into something beautiful, is what I really respond to about that album. Ween’s first three albums are all highly enjoyable, but (“Birthday Boy” excepted) they don’t give me anything close to the emotional jolt that Quebec does.
Re: 12GCG, Greg Duch wrote this above:
“if you were there, and a fan, when that album came out, you’d know what it meant at the time….and still does”
Along similar lines re: what I wrote above, I’m not sure that what a record meant at the time that it came out is the best criterion for determining its relative greatness. I completely understand that 12GCG was a conceptual coup, how it must have been a blast to make, how in its way, it might be the most subversive record Ween has ever released, etc. *But, and this is a big “but,” as I said in the write-up, I just don’t think the songs here are as strong/memorable as the songs on *any other Ween record, and that includes Shinola. There are some very good songs on this record, songs where the arrangements help the material along rather than stalling it out—songs that would be memorable even if they were presented in a whole different style. As I wrote above, I think “Mucus” is the peak here for me; I really like “You Were the Fool” and “I Don’t Wanna Leave You on the Farm” too. But when things start feeling too hokey/jokey, as on “I’m Holding You” or “Powder Blue,” the album completely loses me. (And I have to say, while I admire the WTF quality of “Fluffy,” I really do not enjoy listening to it. Also, I think “Mister Richard Smoker” is not only not very good; it almost seems mean-spirited, something I’m not sure I’d say about any other Ween song.)
I guess I just feel like Ween’s genre experiments work best when they arise and recede within the larger flow of an album—like, say, “Bananas and Blow” on White Pepper or “Learnin’ to Live” on La Cucaracha or “Buenas Tardes” on C&C or —rather than when they become this sustained, somewhat forced-feeling conceit. This is the only album where, to me, it feels like Ween is trying too hard—not to be funny or irreverent, exactly; maybe offbeat or unpredictable is the word, i.e., “What’s the most counterintuitive thing we could do?” I say this with all (i.e., an enormous amount of) due respect to Dean and Gene, but to me, 12GCG is far more intriguing in concept than execution; unlike just about every other Ween record, I’m pretty much never in the mood to hear it.
By the way, to David Moore, who mentioned my “Tried and True” oversight, you’re absolutely right to call me out on that. That song is goddamn incredible—one of the best on the album and one of Ween’s best, period. Thanks for the reminder.
And again, a sincere thanks to all for reading/commenting!
P.S. I tried to come up with a “Top 10 Ween Songs” list and failed miserably. These 31 tracks, listed in no particular order, are more or less the core canon for me:
Exactly Where I’m At
Pork Roll Egg and Cheese
She’s Your Baby
If You Could Save Yourself (You’d Save Us All)
Slow Down Boy
The Stallion, Pt. 3
Don’t Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy
What Deaner Was Talkin’ About
I Don’t Want It
Tried and True
Even If You Don’t
Did You See Me?
Sketches of Winkle
Push th’ Little Daisies
Light Me Up
My Own Bare Hands
Flutes of Chi
A Tear for Eddie
Freedom of ’76
Here is the above list on Spotify (minus “Birthday Boy,” b/c GWS isn’t on there, and “Don’t Get 2 Close…,” which is also missing for some reason): http://open.spotify.com/user/hankshteamer/playlist/0qDbD19xseX8QsooYiYEn3