There are two questions that naturally arise when first understanding that Ween aren't a joke, and that Ween are good. First, isn't it a shame that such talent should be "wasted" on such a postmodern experiment? And second, is this the complete end of popular song?
The first question is to do with the fact that Ween have more musical and melodic talent than many of their peers: so much so that you think they could've made it big if they wanted to. I ask myself then whether it's a waste that they be deconstructing popular song to such an extent, devouring every manner of style without revealing anything about themselves. One can imagine many "earnest" rockers who come with noble goals and messages, but who, one must admit, do not seem to have mastered the act of songwriting like the Ween brothers. Wouldn't it be better if their talents were transferred to such an artist? What would we lose, really?
I'd say no, it wouldn't be better were their talents transferred, and they do have something to tell us after all. I'll admit I still feel it's a bit funny that such talent be possessed by lads who really don't fit the stereotype of "good musicians". I mean, look at their early song titles and you might place them as the juvenile college kids they're so not (well, they can be juvenile, but there is much more to them than just a pair of jokers). I wouldn't blame you, because the only reason it even entered my mind to consider them was the great GS's reviews. But we have to make peace with their strange dispositions, I think. As their later work demonstrates, they do care about the music. They don't write parodies as much as tributes, or even better, songs that are directly inspired by some older music which happens to be great. And, given their innate gifts, which turn out be pretty darn good themselves. I don't think we can ask more of the band than having love for what they do, and the styles they explore.
So even if these are good songs based on classic styles, what good is that? To answer what I see as the "worth" of the band, I have to look at the second question. This question is rather silly, but simply put asks whether we can reconcile the fact that we have a group that can write songs that hark back to the golden days, and yet so deliberately eschew honesty. Does this mean that we've greatly overestimated the place that "emotion", or belief in the music has? I think the answer has to be: certainly a little, but all is not lost. Again, the straight-faced later material demonstrates that there is some love for the oldies, which we can interpolate as transferring onto the songwriting process. But yes, it is true that by deconstructing popular song, they have revealed (to me, at least) that "honesty", if not completely imicable, can be facsimilied well enough. This is actually very interesting to think about, and purely on this basis alone I think we can see the "deeper" value in what they do. On more than one occasion I have been forced to ask myself what exactly I like about particular styles, because Ween confront me with what they see as its essential elements. Is a pretty melody and a set of..."plausibly heartfelt" lyrics really it for a good broken-hearted tune (I'm thinking of "It's Gonna Be Alright" here)? I don't have an answer to most of these questions, but I firmly believe that the reason Ween are able to pull this sort of thing off is that their understanding is combined with a care for the style and subject. This might be a fancy way of me trying to convince myself that "no, they're really serious after all", but it's nice that you have the opportunity to think so much about the music. Even if it isn't always in the same way one thinks about more traditional groups, there is a lot of pondering to be done on their songs, so all that considered - they're not bad on the stimulation front.
I'll admit that all of this merely says that Ween don't spell the end of popular song for me, and that after my initial concerns, I'm rather ok with their philosophy and inclinations now. I'd be lying, however, if I said I can completely submit to it, to the level where such deconstructionist-music can become a favourite. Yet I suppose one has to start somewhere. In Ween's case, getting past the awful "parody band" tag is (still, unfortunately) a good place to begin.
Friday, May 02, 2008
I've mostly conquered the more nihilistic part of me, but that doesn't mean it's non-existent. The self-deprecation that most people come to know me by isn't a put-on for the most part, but probably closer to an outlet that decides to merge with my funny side. It's an attempt, I assume, to provide some amusement while simultaneously giving me catharsis; something for everyone! I've grown used to it as a stream in the background, and I don't take it all that seriously. Except on some off colour days, where it just seems like I've gotten up on the wrong side of the planet. Every fear and fallacy lodged in my head decides to spring out at this rare opportunity, and proceeds to make the day an obstacle that stands in the way of me lying in bed, sighing deeply, and hoping that the next is brighter. It invariably is, mind you; but there are times when I wonder where, and why, I'm going.