Tuesday, August 16, 2011


YEAR: 1994

LABEL: Elektra

TRACK LISTING: Take Me Away, Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down), Freedom of '76, I Can't Put My Finger On It, A Tear For Eddie, Roses Are Free, Baby Bitch, Mister Would You Please Help My Pony?, Drifter In the Dark, Voodoo Lady, Joppa Road, Candi, Buenas Tardes Amigo, The HIV Song, What Deaner Was Talkin' About, Don't Shit Where You Eat

IMPRESSIONS: I don't shock easily. It takes a lot to make my jaw drop. But when Cheeks first put "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)" on a Cerpts Tape, that did it. Along with the rest of the CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE album, I was soon in love with the warped humour and monster hooks of Gene and Dean Ween. Purists may scoff but Ween trod the same musical territory as Frank Zappa; that is, with the whole "does humour belong in music" debate. Ween, in their poppy way, was asking the same question as Zappa did in his rock/jazz/classical music way. They write really good lyrics (whether witty or deliberately coarse) and superb music. This is probably why every radio DJ loves Ween; they're fun and rewarding to play. Also their ability to parody the musical styles of well-established artists is uncanny. Here on this very album they nail 1970's Sound of Philadelphia soul, Paisley Park-era Prince, Roger Milleresque country (to be fully explored on their next all-country/western album), spacey soft rock (to be fully explored on their WHITE PEPPER album), Afropop and more. They also fearlessly walk the line of bad taste from the jaunty cheerfulness of "The HIV Song" to the unbelieveably creepy "Spinal Meningitis". Frank Zappa proved that humour does belong in music and one can make very good music doing it; Ween is merely showing that the great Frank was right. In fact, the tribute song "A Tear For Eddie" sounds very much like some of the quiet Zappa guitar instrumentals like "Watermelon In Easter Hay".

MY FAVOURITE TRACKS: Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down), Freedom of '76, A Tear For Eddie, Roses Are Free, Baby Bitch, Mister Would You Please Help My Pony?, Drifter In the Dark, Voodoo Lady, Buenas Tardes Amigo

FACT SHEET: CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE is Ween's fourth album and their first recorded in a professional recording studio; their first three were done on home recordings using only a four-track. As usual, almost all the instruments are played by Dean & Gene. The album was dedicated to comic actor John Candy who died while the album was in production. "A Tear For Eddie" is a melancholy guitar song written for psychedelic funk guitar pioneer Eddie Hazel who died in 1992. In an 2011 interview, Gene Ween insisted that "Buenas Tardes Amigo" was inspired by a Sesame Street Spanish lesson. The album cover was originally supposed to have a "gay sailor theme" but the label thought it would be politically incorrect so the boys changed it to the (equally politically incorrect but apparently alright with the record label) headless torso of model Ashley Savage -- which is in itself a biting comic statement against the selective PCness of the label. The cover itself is also an homage to the Commodores' 1982 album cover for "ALL THE GREAT HITS".

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