For the past 20 years, Ween has established itself as a major artistic force, combining off-the-wall musical antics with brilliantly creative songwriting. La Cucaracha, Ween's new studio record, is an eclectic, dark, humorous, and bizarre assortment of songs. In other words, it's a typical Ween record. These thirteen tracks, though strongly diverse, share a common theme: relationships. It's a theme that can be at once joyful, morbid, humorous, and often frightening. From the tenderly introspective "Lullaby" to the disturbingly offensive "My Own Bare Hands," Ween pulls no punches in its latest endeavor, which acheives its power through sharp wit, clever songwriting, and brutal honesty.
For a band entering their third decade of creative collaboration (counting from their late '80s self-released cassettes), you might think Ween would have started to mellow, maybe release the occasional children's album, a la They Might Be Giants. However, it's clear from their first studio album in four years that Dean and Gene Ween have lost none of their wonderful weirdness. Don't let the title mislead you into thinking La Cucaracha is a single-genre exercise on the order of 1996's Nashville-nailing 12 Golden Country Greats. Sure, it kicks off with mariachi-esque "Fiesta", but the subsequent 12 tracks contain explorations of demented reggae, faux English accents, lo-fi techno, boot-stompin' bluegrass, a bongo-driven epic jam about the origins of the universe, songs about balloons and killing your girlfriend ("Object" is as creepy a tale as anything they've ever produced), and a soothing-as-Kaopectate sax solo from smooth jazz legend David Sanborn. If you're a follower of the church of Ween, it's as comforting as a heap of mashed potatoes and meatloaf, covered (of course) with a ladle of brown gravy. --Ben Heege