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Shinola, Vol.1

Ween

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Album Review

Shinola, Vol. 1 is the first in a projected series of rarities and oddities from Ween's substantial vaults. Take note that this is not the same thing as a collection of officially released non-LP tracks and B-sides — in fact, on this first volume, there are no previously released tracks at all, so anybody expecting this to be a clearing house for such terrific compilation-only cuts as "Beacon Light" (from the X-Files movie soundtrack), or B-sides like "Who Dat," or oddities such as their rejected Pizza Hut commercial "Where'd the Cheese Go?" will be disappointed. But they won't be disappointed for long, since Shinola, Vol. 1 delivers something better: a bunch of unheard and excellent Ween songs. Of the 12 tracks here, a few have circulated on the net, either as individual songs or as part of the semi-sanctioned boot Craters of the Sac, but even that handful of familiar tunes have never sounded as finished as they do on this comp. Although there are no liner notes here, no details of when the songs were recorded, the music sounds as if it could have been recorded anywhere between 1992's Pure Guava and 2003's Quebec, and the music is, not surprisingly, all over the map, ranging from infectiously silly throwaways to some of the best songs they've ever written. Of course, that haphazard nature is one of the reasons Shinola, Vol. 1 is so fun — not only is it a looser, lighter album as a whole than any proper Ween album in a while, but the songs are consistently strong, whether it's the deliberately silly grinding jam "Tastes Good on th' Bun," or something more ambitious like the soaring, heavy psychedelia of "Did You See Me?" Such signature pieces of psycho-silliness like the noisy, lurching "Big Fat F*ck" and the wedding-band toss-off "Israel" punctuate such great little pop tunes as the slow-crawling "I Fell in Love Today," the dreamy "Someday," and the laid-back, jazzy "Transitions," as well as moodier pieces as "How High Can You Fly" and "The Rift." Then, there are a handful of homages/parodies of other bands, which are undeniable highlights here: the expert Prince-styled weird funk of "Monique the Freak," the breezy, jokey, blue-eyed soul of "Boys Club" that's a terrific send-up of Michael McDonald, but best of all is the greatest song Thin Lizzy never wrote, "Gabrielle," where Gene and Dean manage to capture both Phil Lynott's hyper-charged rhyming and the band's galloping, guitar-driven minor-key attack. It's one of the best songs Ween has ever done, but it wouldn't have easily fit into any of their albums; as far-ranging and willfully eclectic as each of their proper records are, they are united by certain musical and thematic motifs, and these tunes on Shinola, Vol. 1 just wouldn't have fit into any of the other records. As individual songs, they're absolutely terrific, and put together, they make for a wonderful album, one that is every bit as good as their best proper albums. The only two things wrong with Shinola is that it's only available online (via their website ween.com or chocodog.com), and that there will be a wait for the second volume.

Biography

Formed: 1984 in New Hope, PA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Ween was the ultimate cosmic goof of the alternative rock era, a prodigiously talented and deliriously odd duo whose work traveled far beyond the constraints of parody and novelty into the heart of surrealist ecstasy. Despite a mastery for seemingly every mutation of the musical spectrum, the group refused to play it straight; in essence, Ween was bratty deconstructionists, kicking dirt on the pop world around them with demented glee. Along with the occasional frat-boy lapses into misogyny, racism,...
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