In the past, I have always approached a new Ween release with anticipation, rather than skepticism, and repeated the "expect the unexpected" mantra. I am way more than a casual Ween listener. They are one of my all-time-favorite bands, to the point that on an artistic level, I consider Ween to be my generation's Beatles—songwriters who are gifted, strange, humorous, and emotional all in one, unlimited and unrestricted by what they create.
But with their utterly hokey Friends EP, released this summer, skepticism of the band has seeped into my subconscious, and my anticipation of La Cucaracha, their first proper full-length since 2003's Quebec, waned. Have all those inebriated nights, bad acid trips, and coming of age finally done Ween in 17 years after their debut? No way.
Dean Ween described the album's instrumental opener, "Fiesta," as the song that should be in a Taco Bell commercial and make them lots of money. It's totally tacky, sure—the Telemundo-ready trumpet blasts and drum fills—but Ween's signature off-kilter goofiness is written all over it. It's mariachi meets the big top, something that would play while seven animated clowns chase Chihuahuas around a giant peppermint tent. Thankfully, the almost embarrassing, cheesy moments are relegated to the bookends, and much of the middle is stuffed with the kind of haphazard eccentricities and curious dynamics that made Pure Guava, Chocolate and Cheese, and The Mollusk really solid albums from front to back. Ween have always been humorous, sarcastic, and even a little twisted on the surface. The words they string together come out sounding genuine, whether they're absolutely sweet and innocent, ruthlessly adolescent, or totally self-deprecating. The deeper I listen to their lyrics, the more I uncover and appreciate, and La Cucaracha is no exception.
The playful, pitch-shifting synth tones and bouncy rhythm of "Blue Balloon" segues into a more gentle and reserved (read: less Crazy Frog–ish) rendition of "Friends," from the aforementioned EP. The gullet-ripping, distorted rock song "With My Own Bare Hands" takes the best of "You Fucked Up" and adds even more cussing and ruthless misogyny. Don't expect this band to ever play on the campus of Sarah Lawrence: "She's gonna be my cock professor, studying my dick/She's going to get a master's degree in fucking me!" There are a few occasions when La Cucaracha feels like Ween Version 2, where we find our brothers from different mothers recapturing particular songs from the bygone Pure Guava/Chocolate and Cheese era, like "The Fruit Man." The band even treads into prog-rock territory on "Spiritwalker" and the 11-minute jammer, "Woman and Man."
For whatever missteps they may or may not take along the way, Ween are still a long way from falling. TRAVIS RITTER
Ween play the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 467-5510, www.theparamount.com. $25–$30. 8 p.m. Tues., Nov. 13.
Although the last few Black Dice albums were decisively more dance-oriented than their earlier, hardcore-infused works, I never understood how anyone could move to their stuff (which I witnessed at their most recent show at Chop Suey)—it's always been so noisy and dense. However, with their new album, Load Blown, I'm finally beginning to cultivate a holistic appreciation of Black Dice. Within the first few minutes of Load Blown's first track, "Kokomo," it becomes brutally clear that with this record the group is bent on brandishing the more danceable aspects of its repertoire to the uninitiated like myself. When a sticky, abrasive bass line bubbles up in the first few seconds of the song, it feels as if something gargantuan is about to take place. But there's nothing—no crescendo, no real buildup; the bass just rumbles directionless for the entirety of the track, establishing an intense, hypnotic repetition that eventually, dare I say it, makes me want to bob my head. Each track on Load Blown kind of fixates on singular elements of more conventional, systematic, dance-floor-centric music—a gurgling bass line, a tweaked vocal sample, an acidic synth melody. It's borderline subversive stuff in the sense that it rails against the established conventions of all matters of club music and refocuses a sole, ardent attention on two very primal, functional elements of dance music—rhythm and repetition. Load Blown is hot shit. STEVEN SAWADA
Black Dice play the Vera Project, Seattle Center, 956-8372, www.theveraproject.org. $11 adv./$12 DOS. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9.