By Sam Belden
The band Ween is best known for releasing The Mollusk, which is probably the finest example of nautical-themed prog in existence.
Its members, Dean and Gene Ween, were the masterminds behind the iconic “Loop de Loop,” the song that taught SpongeBob how to tie his shoes in that classic episode.
Before all of that however, came their 1994 release Chocolate and Cheese, an album that is as hilarious and musically mesmerizing as it is diverse.
After recording their first three albums in their basement, Ween moved to a professional studio for Chocolate and Cheese, and the results are apparent right from the first track.
“Take Me Away,” an uptempo blues rocker, features higher production values than any of their previous songs, and this standard is maintained for the rest of the album.
They put the new equipment to good use, utilizing it to record some of the best songs in the Ween catalog. The third track, “Freedom of ‘76,” is the first to truly stand out.
Gener, doing his best Eddie Kendricks impression, unleashes a startlingly authentic-sounding falsetto performance and successfully creates a Motown vibe, even while singing of Philadelphia favorites like the Liberty Bell and Boyz II Men.
The next track marks a dramatic shift in tone. “I Can’t Put My Finger On It” is a grungy guitar-fest accompanied by Gener’s muffled vocals and interludes that include some fascinating sound effects, including seagull calls. These interludes pave the way to the band’s progressive future.
The fifth track, “A Tear for Eddie,” is a straightlaced instrumental homage to the late Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic fame, while “Roses Are Free” is a fun track featuring strong performances from both members.
The second half of the album also provides plenty of great music. The aggressive blues riffs of “Voodoo Lady” make it an especially entertaining number, while the closer, “What Deaner Was Talkin’ About,” is one of rock music’s most pleasant drifts off into dreamland of the ’90s.
Chocolate and Cheese features plenty of mighty performances, but the really notable thing about the album is its diversity. Listening to just one song is not even close to enough to get a clear picture of what the band is trying to do here.
Ween is not trying to perfect a style of music, but an attitude — an attitude of being irreverent and witty while also letting loose and having a good time. Gener and Deaner experiment with a variety of genres in order to do this, from punk to pop and from prog to soul.
Some of Ween’s other albums, such as GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, The Mollusk and White Pepper are comparable to Chocolate and Cheese, but none can claim to be such a diverse tapestry of different genres.
Through it all, they maintain the distinctive mood that characterizes their entire discography. If you are looking for something different with expert musicianship in a variety of different styles, look no further than Chocolate and Cheese.