GodWeenSatan: The Oneness

GodWeenSatan The Oneness

Ween (1990)

GodWeenSatan is a classic of emulation, satire, absurdity, postmodernism and sonic experimentation (in the sense of mashing together genre and attitude signifiers in uncanny, novel ways). It’s also abrasive, juvenile and lo-fi.

Brothers Dean and Gene Ween (as per their goofy band mythology) had one unstated, but clear goal in mind: Creating music that wasn’t parodic, per se, but hyperreal. The patterns and intentions of every genre were being poked and prodded in the 1990s by savvy experimenters, but Ween did the most to turn these tropes inside out by exaggerating them to the point of surrealism, discomfort, and (most of the time) wonderful, exciting music. In their own way, they were breaking the fourth wall and incorporating excessive irony before any other alt-hipsters did. Their mid- and late-period LPs were so different, mature and diverse that they were almost a different band. And though in my opinion, every Ween album from 1994’s Chocolate And Cheese to 2003’s Quebec completely surpasses this one (those are where you should begin), GodWeenSatan is where the innovation started.

Ween fostered an image of self-debasement and dubious intent – they clearly weren’t serious or formal, but they had bizarrely intricate, artistic ambitions even this early. They were as uncategorizable as the decade that spawned them, while being distinct enough in each incarnation to avoid comparisons to the amorphous 2000s. Their humor and worldview is defiantly insular and abstract, which predictably turned them into a stoner-approved cult band. But their talent stretches far beyond mere novelty. This release tends toward corny grossout jokes more than the high-concept impersonations they’d do on later records, but it’s entertaining on its own terms. All this roundabout explanation isn’t doing me any favors, so just imagine Ween as what would happen if South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone made music with the same sensibility, plus the heartwarming meta-ness of Dan Harmon’s Community.

GodWeenSatan is endlessly versatile in arrangement, mood, songwriting, themes and melodies. They jump from Prince to Black Flag to Can to Moody Blues to Peter, Paul and Mary to Captain Beefheart to minstrel folk to Santana. And they were just warming up here, recording half-heartedly with a four track system! This diversity is why it’s a fool’s errand to try and summarize the band with one song; you’re better off listening to a whole record.

Ween picks apart the successes of the past, finding what works and mashing it all together into schizophrenic formats, while adding their own unmistakbly weird personal touch to the whole thing. They offer a subversive metacommentary on their beloved medium while also creating a coherent experience. Their in-jokes, subtle musical influences and effortless affectations are more comprehensible the more you know about music, so they do have a steep “learning curve”, so to speak. But underneath all the artifice and blue humor lies perhaps the greatest band of the last 30 years. Their attitude was rarely real, but their melodic gift and devotion to every kind of music was utterly heartfelt. That’s the paradox of Ween, and it resulted in a spectacular run of albums.

Key track: “Wayne’s Pet Youngin”

See also: The Pod – Ween (1991), Chocolate And Cheese – Ween (1994), 20 Golden Country Greats – Ween (1996), The Mollusk – Ween (1997), White Pepper – Ween (2000), Quebec – Ween (2003), La Cucaracha – Ween (2007)

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