Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Pod

Released 1991 on Shimmy Disc
Reviewed by aaroneous, 17/08/2000ce

Kings of home recording, the two masterminds of Ween (grade school friends and “twin brothers” Gene and Dean) have taken the four-track portastudio to the very limits of its potential on this compilation of the “throwaways” from the sessions for their Elektra debut “Pure Guava”. Recorded in an apartment above a barn in their home town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, their studio, affectionately named “The Pod”, featured the aforementioned recording device, a few crappy 80’s effect boards, various drum machines, keyboards, guitars, and copious quantities of inhalants. The cover art even features a mangling of the cover of “The songs of Leonard Cohen” with a gas mask equipped to aid the inhalation of Scotch Guard spray starch covering Leonard’s face. What is contained within is one of the most eclectic, original, and truly warped collection of songs . . . ever.

Beginning with the anthem “Strap on that Jammy Pac”, the tone is set for a start and stop ride through mental disentanglement. Featuring just a delayed and distorted guitar and drum machine, and the ridiculously hammed voice of “Gene Ween”, this song constantly sounds like it’s about to end, only to start again after just a few seconds of silence. You can almost here them laughing in the background. On the next song, “Dr. Rock”, you actually can.

Coming off like every zitty 15 year old’s ultimate metal song run through a flanger sounding almost exactly like a toilet flushing, “Dr.Rock” begins with a delivery of verbal nonsense that sounds something like “while you’re modulating and articulating all the feelings of that afternoon/Dr. Rock!/you’re path is gonna shine again/Dr. Rock!/don’t pull your self with no more strings” and then ends up with the singer unable to keep from laughing. When the solo comes in, over top of a programmed drum machine solo, sirens sound, as if the two musical lunatics are finally being taken away for unleashing a sound so completely insane.

Another song, “Pollo Asado”, presents a pretty little jazzy guitar piece over which the monotonous ordering of mexican food at a taco stand rollicks on and on, as the guy behind the counter continuously messes up the orders. Still another song sounds like Phil Collins after a night of nitrous oxide intoxication, until the tender piece, something about the “night dreamt in a demon’s sweat the night she left” errupts into a descending overdriven organ line that gets slower and slower and lower pitched and still yet more lower pitched as they slow down the tape speed more and more, simulating the sound of a thousand solar powered robots slowing to a standstill as the light of the sun is blotted out for the last time.

There are seeming homages to 60’s psychedelic folk, such as the acoustic guitar and overdriven organ epic “Right to the ways and the rules of the world”, which ends with more unable-to-be-contained laughter and one of them saying “It isn’t over yet . . . we didn’t fill up the whole thing” as it fades out, seemingly into infinity. This goes right into “Captain Fantasy”, a delayed vocal, proto-metal, and shitty drum machine romp which evokes images of the singer in a wizard’s cloak casting vortexes of cheesy Dr. Who-style laser effects from his outstretched fingers, out onto his mesmerized audience of worshipful and brainwashed disciples.

There are fast songs, there are slow songs, there are ironically imbued ballads, there are songs that the feeble minded listener would pass off as “not music”, but, strangely, all of it feels simultaneously tossed off uncaringly and deeply heartfelt. Within this album, the “band” creates its own mythology, 3 songs mentioning the edible (?) delicacy of “pork roll egg and cheese on a kaiser bun”, as well as Boognish, their demon god icon that looks like a psychotic and toothy smiley face with liberty spikes.

On songs like “Molly”, repetition is used almost as a musical torture device, and the releases are followed by brief silences and then more of the same. The initial reaction is to fast forward, but, after repeated listens, you relish every false stop as if it the sign of true genius. To write all of this off as the work of wasted fools is to ignore the incredible effort it must have taken to even reach over and press record while this brain damaged, not to mention actually playing the instruments as well as they managed to.

The music on this album navigates an enormous spectrum of genres, and is delivered with a completely anarchic disregard for getting everything to sound perfect. The effect is immediately enveloping, and makes it difficult to take any more polished music seriously at all. Ween are laughing at themselves, at music in general, and ultimately, at you for taking it all as seriously as you can’t avoid doing. Their “anyone can do this” spirit is particularly inspiring to anyone with limited resources and limitless imagination. I personally guarantee that this album will be anything but a disappointment.

Other albums by Ween are spotty at best. “Pure Guava” is supposedly the best of theses sessions, but is too short to deliver the full effect. “God Ween Satan – the oneness” is their first album, recorded while they were just out of high school, has some high points, including a mind blowing Prince cover featuring a talk box solo that would make Peter Frampton shrug, pack up his gear, and take up fly fishing, but, overall, the album comes off as immature. Everything after “Pure Guava” was recorded digitally on sixteen track ADATs, and the solos are too polished for my taste. After this, they delivered a country album (!) and then returned to form with the delightful album “The Mollusk”, which features some excellent synth playing and truly heart wrenching love songs, as well as the obligatory joke stuff. Their new “White Pepper” album is watered down crap. Avoid it entirely.

Live, Ween now play with a full band, after having toured for years with just a four track and a smile Their performances give P-funk a run for their money, and usually exceed the 3 hour mark effortlessly. Gene Ween has gone from making the most god awful leads in history on purpose to being one of the most deft manipulators of fx pedals and a Strat I’ve seen. This said, their approach has gone from attempting to confront and confound their audience to just entertaining them, and that’s more than a little sad. Regardless, everything you need to know about Ween can be found on “The Pod”, and, clocking in at over 70 minutes, there’s plenty to keep your neurons melting as you try to imagine yourself pulling off anything half as listenable in that state of intoxication. Rock!

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