To say that Ween’s La Cucaracha is a deranged album misses the point. Yes, it is totally fucking deranged, but after nine albums Deaner and Gener have developed a magical ability to transcend the normal, acceptable levels of weirdness and reach an entirely new plain of cognition. This is not weirdness for the sake of it, but a new and enlightened mode of thought. These guys are dads now, and though they’re not hiding out in the basement, strapped-in to the Scotchgard®-powered bong and drooling into the 4-Track anymore, the long-term effects of so many nights of said activities culminate here with ironic majesty.
It’s hard to get a grasp on the group’s reverse Beatles-esque transcendence. Dean and Gene are masters of any genre they choose to parody, be it country music, Jimmy Buffet-style dad rock, or raging Motorhead riffs. Nothing is sacred in the Ween cannon, but rather than sink into the realms of mustached concentration and stone-faced virtuosity, they have mastered the art of waving their dicks in the wind [note, if you don’t get the reference, listen to Ween’s ’97 album, The Mollusk]. However, they trick the listener by occasionally sneaking a truly great song of their own design into the silliness.
The songs on La Cucaracha are just as hilarious and bug-eyed as those of any of the group’s previous releases, but there is a subtly disturbing narrative lying just below the surface. By way of simple impressionism the album rides an emotional roller coaster through the storms and stresses that bind any healthy relationship between a woman and a man. But this is no concept album. La Cucaracha’s songs scatter in every direction, swaying through such fertile terrain as the introductory ‘70s game show horn blasts of “Fiesta,” (courtesy of David Sanborn) or the country stomp of “Learnin’ to Love.” However, if you’re paying attention the album does tell a story and it is no coincidence that it is bookended by two party anthems, “Fiesta,” and the final, decadent cut, “Your Party.”
Dean has gone on record to say that La Cucaracha is indeed a “party album.” But what exactly is being celebrated is never clear. The underlying subtext is as bold or disparate as you want it to be as songs, like “Sweetheart” and “Man and Woman” coalesce with impeccable songwriting and seemingly sincere sentiments... which can be more than a little suspect, coming from these guys.
Other songs, like the cock rock war cry “With My Own Bare Hands,” and the slow and predatory ballad “Object” move at the pace of unapologetic male wish fulfillment.
“Blue Balloon” is just good background music that’s crafted from the skewered pop sensibilities and drug-damaged glow of Ween’s musical vocabulary. At times La Cucaracha glides along, evoking the comfortable and glaringly bright production qualities of its predecessor, Quebec. But La Cucaracha is a much more ramped-up album that personifies this phase of the group’s career. Maturity is a factor in the group’s evolution, and Dean and Gene are definitely comfortable in their adult skins. Like the album’s title suggests, after 17 years, Ween just won’t go away. The group is going about its business, un-phased by the world, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.
This review appears in issue no. 48 (Winter 2008) of Signal To Noise. Thanks Pete!