[27 May 2008]
PopMatters Features Editor
The Friends EP is Ween at their Weeniest. This is to say that, basically, it is Ween (a pair of ridiculously talented and prodigious and hopelessly batshit musicians) at their least predictable, least accessible, and least immediately gratifying. Always an experimental outfit (in the sense that they have yet to repeat any musical formula more than a couple of times before ditching it for something rather completely different), Ween has built their considerable reputation by embracing every whack notion that crosses their drug-addled minds. To wit: they have written songs called “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)”, “Chocolate Town” (which is not about chocolate), “Poop Ship Destroyer” (which is not about ships), “Happy Colored Marbles” (which is actually about marbles), and, well, “Flies on my Dick”. They even once made an entire record of old school country and western called 12 Golden Country Greats. It had 10 tracks.
So, in other words, Ween is a weird band. That’s their thing, and it would be ridiculous to argue anything else. They chase the kook, they celebrate the zany, and (this part is up to you) they’ve either wasted their impressive talents on Doctor Demento knockoffs, or carved out a new territory somewhere to the West of Phish and to the North of Frank Zappa. But, whichever way you fall, Ween is a weird band. And so it follows that The Friends EP is a weird little record. But, it isn’t particularly “good weird”. It is moodless (the tracks are all jarringly different, and pull you in five different directions over a scant 20 minutes), parodic, and kind of annoying. The title track is the bastard product of a bathhouse orgy between the Pet Shop Boys, Aqua, and the Venga Boys. It also boasts a pretty unfunny chorus “A friend’s a friend who knows what being a friend is” which gets repeated over and over again till you hit “next”. It might be a joke, but I hate this stuff, so this carefully reconstructed version of cheeseball euro techno winds up at the top of the “funny once, but not twice” pile.
Things get a lot better from here on in. “I Got to Put the Hammer Down” rocks along with a killer organ and a lot of fuzzy vocals. “King Billy” rides a spacey reggae vibe to a huge, weird solo on something that is probably a synthesizer, but could just as easily be a dishwasher. And the mini narrative outlined on the closing two tracks (about a homoerotic encounter culminating in some aggressive head—the final track is called, ahem, “Slow Down, Boy”) is satisfying both musically and goofily. Still, this can’t be recommended for anyone but a pretty serious fan.