I’ve never met Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, the two-headed songwriting duo of Ween, but I have my own speculation about who contributes what based on their output in other projects. That guess is that Gener does the Pink Floyd styled space-prog-pop while Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween aka Deaner, brings on the grimy and oddball guitar rock.
The Deaner Record only reinforces that notion. It’s got a strong similarity to Ween, far more so than Deaner’s side project Moistboyz, which goes after the heavy rock set. Here, it’s a mix of twangy country, goofball rock, and the downright weird. It’s sometimes guitar heavy and more rock oriented, but it will jump back and forth with country, boogie, and all kinds of other influences that tend to take hold for a whole genre-exploring song instead of going the schizophrenic route of throwing all the influences into a single track. As it jumps around stylistically, Dean’s voice keeps it together along with the underlying identity and choppy rock sound at its heart. The lyrics are, well, Deaner. “Gum” is about gum and candy. “Tammy” is about murder and infidelity. “Exercise Man” is about, you got it, a man who exercises excessively.
Calling it rock doesn’t really explain it either. The leading track is an instrumental boogie woogie song called “Dickie Betts” that’s got a hint of jam band endlessness combined with the cartoon lunacy of Vince Guaraldi Trio (Peanuts). The next song is “Exercise Man,” the first single to be released and one of the weirder jams on the record that reminds of Ween’s Chocolate and Cheese. In fact, much of this record recalls golden era Ween, predominantly from the Chocolate and Cheese era through The Mollusk (Yes, that includes 12 Golden Country Greats). “Gum,” one of the more ridiculous moments of the album, actually feels a bit more Pure Guava (or earlier) to me. While some Moistboyz sound creeps in from time to time (“Bums,” “I’ll Take It and Break It,” “Bundle of Joy”), there’s a lot more diversity here, aurally and lyrically. The only thing it lacks is that pop sheen that Gener presumably brings to the table. (See Marvelous Clouds).
Deaner wrote the record with a rotating back band that, live, is mostly Ween tour vets Claude Coleman Jr., Dave Dreiwitz, and Glenn McClelland, along with Bill Fowler. Deaner plays three of the songs entirely solo (full instrumentation) and it’s definitely got a full hands-on feel. His voice is all over this project well beyond the microphone.
When Ween broke up in 2012, their next projects were disappointing. The Dean Ween Group is more familiar and more in line with expectation which, strangely, means it’s less predictable. Allegedly a lot of this record comes from “scraps” of ideas from over the years. Let’s hope his still to come new ideas keep this trajectory. Even if they are Ween leftovers, which that statement hints at to me, this one’s a good one.
7.9 / 10
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