Ween: In Memoriam

Categories: Obituaries, Ween

"There are things in my life that no one can understand except Aaron," Mickey Melchiondo noted of his bandmate Aaron Freeman in 2007, when they—as Dean and Gene Ween—put out their last album, La Cucaracha. "We kind of have a parallel life. We went through everything together: junior high school, being broke, getting evicted, meeting our wives and ex-wives, having kids. We make, penny-for-penny, the same income, because we don't do anything other than the band. He's like my brother. And a lot of getting this record together was getting back to that. But there are other things where I can talk to anyone but Aaron."

Apparently, the same is true of Freeman, who perhaps accidentally announced Ween's breakup in an interview with Rolling Stone. "This is news to me," Melchiondo wrote on Facebook, "all I can say for now, I guess." Perhaps it's all a horrible mistake, something to be talked out as only two old friends can.

But if it's true, it's at least as sad a rock split as Kim and Thurston. Melchiondo and Freeman took their brodom to its fullest creative extension, adopting for all public purposes a joint family. With a name cribbed from the colloquial pre-teen shortening of "wiener," the two spun the giddily obnoxious language of their friendship into Ween's three-decade creative partnership. In Mrs. Slack's middle school typing class, they imagined a personal deity named the Boognish, an illustration of which soon found its way onto the four-track recordings they were producing at an astonishing clip for a pair of goof-offs with a shared obsession for getting fucked up. The first Ween shows took place in local garages for neighborhood kids. It didn't take long for their tapes to reveal a barely concealed vein of raw emotion.

"Jesus Christ, pain, take one," Freeman intones at the beginning of "Birthday Boy," recording over an answering machine message of his mother singing "Happy Birthday" to him earlier that day. The guitar tone is hideous and brown, the painterly adjective the brothers Ween used to describe their best work, and when the first take runs out, it becomes obvious that the tape previously housed some Pink Floyd.

Ween, "Birthday Boy"

One can only imagine the further generation loss "Birthday Boy" underwent as Ween's music disseminated throughout the late '80s indie cassette underground, and—by 1992's Pure Guava—via MTV. More importantly, they developed a genuine cult following, becoming the nearly definitive soundtrack for the subspecies of teenager rock writers once meant by "punk"—obscure, quasi-vile glue-sniffers from the greasier side of the tracks. Differentiating themselves from the sometimes overlapping Deadhead/Phishhead kin with a drug agenda that came not from any cosmic desire to become One, but instead to get swiftly destroyed, Ween's presented a fantasy that was just as much about getting fucked up than it was about literally getting fucked up. Though it was that, too. Within those parameters, and an extraordinarily deep songbook that included at least an alternate album's worth of material for each disc released, Ween bred a fanbase with a nearly three-dimensional appreciation for the band's body of music, something rare and beautiful in any part of the music world.

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