A Token of My Extreme: Ween- Pure Guava (1992)
Electra; November 15, 1992
Lo and behold, the first entry in my column to actually have a charting single in the U.S.
"Push th' Lil Daisies" made it all the way to #21 (complete with a Beavis 'N' Butthead cameo) and is quite possibly the strangest song to do so--an irreverent, cryptic piece of helium-voiced pop in an age largely dominated by self-serious dudes in flannel, it launched the otherwise (and undeservedly) obscure duo of Dean 'n' Gene into major-label stardom... where they resided for maybe a few months before disappearing back into the deep drug-induced fog from whence they came and where they are far more comfortable.
And believe me, this is one of those classic cases where the single is the most accessible track on an otherwise challenging release. However it's not like "Push th' Lil Daisies" is unrepresentative of the rest of Pure Guava--the album does in fact sound like that. More or less. Just add a bunch more electronic vocal distortion, genre bending and weapons-grade hallucinogenics and you're on your way.
Pure Guava represents something of a transitional album for these guys. It's the last Ween release recorded with just the duo, a drum machine and a four-track; the next album Chocolate & Cheese was recorded in a professional studio, and most of the albums after it were similarly lush and fairly song-oriented (by Ween standards). Pure Guava still has a roughly equal ratio of fully formed tracks, utterly stoned rambling and sophomoric anti-songs like their previous adventures in lo-fi but apparently is a lot more tuneful and less noisy--I haven't heard the albums prior, so I can neither confirm nor deny this.
What I can confirm though is that despite their Zappa-esque penchant for fourth grade humor (they have a song titled "Poop Ship Destroyer" for Christ's sake) and every annoying/hilarious vocal filter under the Sun, the Brothers Ween are extremely talented musicians with a gift for crafting some very catchy if askew hooks. Seriously. "Little Birdy" sounds like a pretty acoustic ditty played on a busted phonograph. "The Stallion Pt. 3" is a truly neat piece of spacey sorta-prog, even if the lyrics are exercises in total non-sequitor. "Sarah" and "Loving U Thru It All" are downright beautiful ballads played seemingly without an ironic sneer in sight. They also show a amusing talent for appropriating other styles--"Springtime" is excellent Prince homage, "Pumpin 4 The Man" is straight-up hoedown Ween style, and "Don't Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy" is a fucking Bowie song. No I don't mean it's a cover. I mean it sounds eerily, exactly like Bowie, in a way that probably made the Thin White Duke check his coke-era outtakes to see if something was lifted.
Of course this is a Ween record and we can't go without mentioning some of their browner (as in the acid) excursions, none being more brown than the five-minute lapse of sanity known as "Mourning Glory," which accurately depicts the state of being completely skullfucked while low-flying jumbo jets pass overhead and some jerk is verbally assaulting you. "Hey Fat Boy (Asshole)" and "Reggaejunkiejew" are even more silly and casually offensive than their titles imply. "I Play It Off Legit" sounds like the boys were huffing paint thinner and just hit record.
Ween's diverse and always outre career on the goofier side of psychedelia has put them in the league of other American underground legends such as The Residents, Mr. Bungle, and The Butthole Surfers, and Pure Guava is just one step on their way to greatness. The slight spoilage of MTV aside, this is a downright fun and hilarious record that pushes the bounds of music and good taste while being terminally addictive. You don't need a bong to enjoy it either--though it probably couldn't hurt.
If you enjoy the aforementioned bands and don't have Pure Guava, it's quite possible that you're either retarded or too wasted to go to the record store. This is exactly what the doctor ordered. Dig some change out of the couch and go.
For the newbie, I would highly recommend the more easygoing Chocolate & Cheese followed by The Mollusk, their prog-rock opus and a straight masterpiece. Once you've played those into the ground and crave more Boognish, Pure Guava is the next stop.