As a symbol, the cockroach represents the brightest specimen evolution has to offer. It has a persistent character that adapts to change and trauma without compromising its sleek design, and it is no accident that Ween christened its ninth studio album La Cucaracha.
For 18 years the New Hope, Pa., duo of Dean and Gene Ween (aka Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman) has scurried through its course of musical growth at a steady pace, propelled by a drug-damaged and deranged sense of humor. La Cucaracha captures the group churning out its most gorgeous and complex work to date, mashing robust production and sophisticated writing with a disarming wallop of songs that alternate between juvenile antics and sincere emotions.
Dean describes La Cucaracha as a "party album," and the game-show keyboard horn blast of opening number "Fiesta" underscores the sentiment. But if anything is being celebrated, it is that the group has moved beyond the dour, personal fodder of its 2003 predecessor Quebec.
The previous album chronicles Gene's real-life divorce from his wife, and embodies a dark chapter of Ween's career. La Cucaracha is a cathartic album that brings the group back to form. Everything from mental retardation and terminal diseases to Leonard Cohen and Mexican food has been the subject of Ween's parodies.
Genre boundaries have never limited the group's output, as songs jump schizophrenically from childlike Casio hip-hop to Motorhead dirges to love songs, all the while keeping one foot firmly planted in the surreal. As a result, Ween's albums are perplexing. Weirdo humor comes in spades, and just as patterns emerge, the group drops an honest-to-goodness great song. Jamming the synapses and blurring the lines between sincerity and comedy is Ween's modus operandi.
La Cucaracha barrels through a pastiche of musical styles, but each song is bound by an underlying theme that explores the tensions and emotions that surround any romantic relationship.
"Ween's records are always going to reflect where Dean and I are in our lives at the time we make them," Gene says. "Dealing with people, and yes, dealing with relationships is always going to be part of that. Each record is like a diary entry for us, and that is very much where we were when we went into this album."
As epic and thematic as this sounds, La Cucaracha is not John "Cougar" Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane." Any real-life details are obscured in allegory. Just as the contemplative 10-minute-plus prog-rock center of the album, "Woman and Man," or the ridiculously over-the-top techno thumper, "Friends," keeps details vague, the story comes through by way of impressionism.
"Nothing turns me off more than when someone gives away too much of the story," Gene adds. "When you do that, people can't use their imaginations and relate to it in their personal ways. That's what makes great art and great songs so great."
Through such a process, Ween has fostered a growing musicianship that has captured the attention of the virtuoso world with Frank Zappa-like flair. Rather than pursue a serious and austere musical direction, the group pokes a middle finger at the snooty arts with punk-rock flippancy. "It is one thing to appreciate good art and get into it," Gene says. "I certainly do. But people who take it too seriously and get uptight about it are pricks, and they deserve to be punished. They make it harder for the rest of us and that is precisely why Ween's music has never fallen into any one genre or been meant for an exclusive audience. It's there for anyone who wants to enjoy it."
And like the cockroach that is so gloriously displayed on the album's cover, Ween has endured change with La Cucaracha to find itself firmly back on track, scurrying through evolution stronger than ever.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…