Dean Ween Group
The Deaner Album (ATO Records)
By Scott Deckman
Mickey Melchiondo’s new offering, The Deaner Album, with his band the Dean Ween Group, sounds like, surprise, a Ween record. And a pretty funny one at that, which is saying something. The main difference is it features Melchiondo’s gruffer vocals instead Aaron Freeman’s more versatile voice, but that doesn’t stop the record from succeeding. (It’s not like he hasn’t sang for Ween before. Who can forget his lead vocal on “My Own Bare Hands” or “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night”?)
Instrumental opener “Dickie Betts” is a pretty faithful shot of jazzy, upbeat Southern rock, and follower “Exercise Man,” with its deadpannish vocal and lyrics like “He’s got sponsors on the jersey/He wears on his back/He’ll die at 57 of a heart attack/But he’ll ride that fuckin bike as far as he can/He’s the exercise man,” could’ve fit in on most Ween releases. Spiritually, haha, it’s the cousin to The Mollusk‘s “Waving My Dick in the Wind,” with a little twang added (odd, because that’s the one album I can think of where the song would stick out). “Seven miles of traffic/Backed up in the turn/But you’re pumpin your legs and you’re feelin the burn/And you’ll ride your fuckin bike just as far as you can/You’re the exercise man.”
Yes, the world has been missing this guy.
Mickey claimed he wanted to show off his guitar playing more on this release, and he did on the opener and “Bundle of Joy,” where he psychedelically bends and shreds with the best of them. The song’s protagonist, a scumbag rock’n’roller, fits in with other Ween badasses (think of the assholes from the aforementioned “My Own Bare Hands” and “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night,” or maybe “Stroker Ace”). The way Ween goes on about them — or here, Mickey — these malcontents couldn’t be any other way. Not settling for character mitigation, Ween dares you to like these shitbags.
“I’ll Take It and Break It” stays in that vein, only instead of a nasty biker dude or macho stud, the singer is more of a twisted misanthrope who isn’t likely to be banging whores or snorting coke, so the only damage he gets to inflict is when his loser ass borrows something from an unexpected victim. This makes his rude actions even more pure: It’s Melchiondo the Weirdo’s Revenge. “Cause I’m a twist it, and turn it/And break it, and burn it/It wasn’t meant to be worked so hard/But I’m a scrape it, and boil it/And not put any oil in it/ Use it to pull stumps in my back yard.” Again, quintessential Ween. The song features a nasty central riff that rides the scales like a hurt machine. “Bums” is another guitar showcase, an unapologetic number about people like the Deaner and his friends. Melchiondo couldn’t have made it if he were a normal straight guy; he needed to be a jackass to make music this good.
Speaking of jackasses, “Gum” continues the Ween demented sound with Dean singing “I like gum, all kinds of gum,” and other such profundities over a steady drum loop and glockenspiel pings. The band also sees fit to just about pilfer a riff from the Fixx’s “One Thing Leads to Another,” as well as add in some distorted noodling of their own. It’s so stupid and dumb, and kinda hard to get through to be honest, but that’s Dean Ween. And it only works for a Weener. Note to other bands out there: You are not Ween. Do not try this. There are a couple of these Boognish cuts on the record.
“Garry” is dedicated to late Funkadelic guitarist Garry Shider and sounds like a worthy Chocolate and Cheese B side. “You Were There” has a White Pepper feel, a down-home mid-tempo classic rocker about the trials and tribulations of a losing life. But Melchiondo, with his chops again on display, makes it seem fun, or at least acceptable. “Tammy” is a heavy-handed, atmospheric rock ballad about a matter-of-fact trucker who eschews cellular phones for weapons and is hell-bent on killing his cheating love. “Tammy, bring me my shammy/So I can clean my shotgun/and bury you below.” The protagonist sounds suspiciously like Darrell Ward, recently-departed long-hauler of Ice Road Truckers fame (RIP). I would almost guess Melchiondo has been watching that show; he’s got the Northern accent down. Latter-day Ween were always impressive musos (at least for the alt-rock set, who concentrated more on the songs than virtuosity), and on The Deaner Album the musicianship is very strong.
The thing that separates Ween (or in this case, Dean Ween) from anyone else is that the band’s parodies are great songs on their own, so spot-on and absurd at the same time it’s hard not to bust out laughing when listening; I can see the duo losing it when it hit them periodically. Yet they take the piss with the straightest face possible. The funny thing is, my favorite Ween songs tend to be the straighter ones. In their later years, the duo could have used their shapeshifterness to become hit-making pop stars, or at least been a songwriting team for prettier people. But that wasn’t what the band was about. You have to admit the Ween boys are really unique, even if you don’t like them.
Now that Ween is tentatively back together, or at least touring, the future of this newly inspired songwriting machine may be in flux (Melchiondo claims to have another record in the can ready to go). Given that Ween has such cachet among aging Xers, more moneymaking tours, or at least high-profile dates, are likely. So, whether the duo makes music as a unit again or not, it should be a comfort to Ween Nation to know that brown sounds will likely emanate from somewhere; both Weeners have now released albums apart from the band.
So yeah, this is basically Ween with Mickey handling all the vocals. While you might miss Freeman’s voice and songwriting — and maybe a sincere ballad or two — you won’t miss him as much as you’d think. If you like Ween, you’ll like The Deaner Album. You might even love it. Batten down the hatches and commence sailing on the Poop Ship Destroyer.