I would like to warn you of my bias when it comes to Ween, being a life long fan of the band and all. However, this album, though one of their later, cleaner (as in sound engineering) albums is also one of their greatest.
It starts with a monster of a song which can only be described as the best song Motorhead never wrote, before falling into a dreamy yet distubing number called Zoloft. From here, the song 'Transdermal Celebration' is an almost flawless song, beautifully crafted and played.
The fourth track is very Ween, quite silly, though hilariously sung and sounds great. Then we move onto what for a while 'Tried and True' - the most ''regular' sounding track on the album (though note the cheeky lyrical twist). 'Happy Coloured Marbles' is a trippy number that collapses into a mad-slow nightmare like musical attack... so flippin' good!
The gentle 'Among his Tribe' and 'Captain' slow the album to a gentle pace almost breaks in the album to ponder and relax before the fun smacks you in the face once again.
'Hey There Fancypants' is camp fun though not a patch on 'Mr Richard Smoker' from a previous album (12 Country Golden Greats).
The sereness of 'I don't want it' just proves that the relatively unknown Ween could be perhaps the greatest and most delicate songwriters this planet knows, but the immediateness and genious of 'The F*cked Jam' that follows means only those who understand the religion that is Ween will appreciate this.
Finally I'd like to asy that the last three songs produce such a plethora of emotions that really i cannot describe it to give it it's due. There is a need to listen to this album many times and then the sheer brilliance will shine out.
Once again I may be an avid Ween fan but I cannot see how this isn't one of the greatest albums ever made (and possibly never heard)
This fifteen track CD is Ween's 8th studio album and was produced in 2003. Although one of their darker records, it is an outstanding accomplishment and a prime example of the bands musical craftsmanship. Ween have never achieved critical acclaim probably because of their humorous and offbeat style that so often disguises their underlying expert musicianship. Their creative achievements are even more incredible when you consider that like so many of their albums, Quebec is home-made: recorded in back bedrooms and friends' garages. Their albums are always joyful celebrations of musical discovery designed to simultaneously thrill and disturb in equal amounts. Quebec is no exception and contains an eclectic collection that continues their incessant examination and experimentation of various musical genres also found on many of their other releases such as the 'Pure Guava', 'Chocolate and Cheese' and 'White Pepper' albums. However, this album does seem to have at its core a prog rock psychedelic vibe that is manifest in spacey sound effects, harrowing melodies, echoing backgrounds, chirping bird noises, pitch-manipulated vocals and twanging sitars. Many songs sound like they've been inspired (or ripped depending on your point of view) from albums produced in the late 1960s early 1970s. But these compositions are surely a respectful nod of appreciation to such heavyweight legends as Led Zeppelin, Bowie and Eno, Genesis and the Floyd.
1. It's Gonna Be A Long Night
3. Transdermal Celebration
4. Among His Tribe
5. So Many People In The Neighborhood
6. Tried And True
7. Happy Colored Marbles
8. Hey There Fancypants
10. Chocolate Town
11. I Don't Want It
12. The F**Ked Jam
13. Alcan Road
14. The Argus
15. If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)
Ween are renowned for their opening tracks that either knock you off your chair or leave you scratching your head and asking yourself "why?" The opening track of Quebec fit's the former category. "It's Gonna Be a Long Night" pays homage to headbangers everywhere and is very much reminiscent of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" only with better lyrics:
"don't call your mother - don't call your priest
don't call your doctor - call the police
you bring the razor blade - I'll bring the speed
Take off your coat - it's gonna be a long night"
I wonder if Lemmy's heard this... The drug induced reference acts as a gateway to the glorious mind-twisting journey that forms the rest of the album. The lethargic and freaky "Zoloft," the second track and the brand name of a popular antidepressant wonder drug - shifts the tempo way down. This is Ween at their spooky goofy best - a song about a happy drug to "make me love me." Zoloft brings with it swirling synthesiser, creepy voice-overs, tweeting birds and ultimately the intrusive sound of helicopter blades. It incorporates an otherworldly speeded-up backing chorus and establishes what turns out to be the album's overriding psychedelic sound.
This psychedelic theme is most prominent on tracks such as "Among His Tribe" - a soft ballad with subdued lead vocal and tender acoustic guitar strumming that transforms into a surreal dreamscape of disturbing machine-like sound effects, distorted synthesisers, overdubbed bass and eerie backing vocals. The experimental prog rock of "Captain" and "Alcan Road" also form well arranged compositions permeated throughout with dark acoustic melodies and electronic textures. The former being a reverberated murky exploration of intermittent funky guitar riffs, distant chimes, growling ethnic background vocals and a freaky lead that merely utters the repeated spaced out phrase: "Captain, turn around and take me home." The haunting beauty of "Alcan Road" takes us on another journey to some spaced out psychedelic landscape of wind effects and church organ with touches of Floyd and Eno. Here the vocals are barely comprehendible but it doesn't' matter because now we're in a world that transcends language.
Ween has the tendency for contrasting musical juxtapositions by placing tracks of different genres and tempos next to each other. So a languid laid back track is often followed by a song containing a faster or upbeat rhythm. Following on from "Zoloft" for example is the more upbeat and cosmic "Transdermal Celebration" which is simply a great rock number with neat vocals set against arching guitar riffs, driving bass and impressive drum back-up. Even these more accessible and emotional 70s guitar rock numbers on the album - others include the closing ballad "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)" and the blissful "I Don't Want It" - have a somewhat 'trippy' sunny groove about them.
I'm sure Ween always make an effort to include at least one or two tracks on every album that are designed to force the listener to skip over. It's also impossible to play a Ween album when your parents are round to visit. The upsetting track on this CD is the grinding "So Many People in the Neighborhood" and it's a strange neighbourhood. I can imagine the Ween having tons of fun making this, but I doubt there are few who enjoy repeat listens. The latter part of the track is an unbearable distorted cacophony. Definitely one for the skip button. From an awful "neighborhood" we turn a corner and enter more accessible regions occupied by the elevated tones of "Tried and True" with its pleasantly layered guitar and mandolin sequences, sugary pitch-manipulated vocals, gently whispering background voice overs and some interesting hippy tongue-in-cheek lyrics:
"At the dawn I woke, I was alone... rising (I catch it)
I called upon the force of time and space... calling (see them)
And as she came to me, I fell back down... realizing (creation)
That it's cool for you to love me now... I'm everything (I am)
Everything - 'cause tried and true, I see the light in you
Can you dig in my soul, could you smell my whole... Life?"
Track 7 "Happy Colored Marbles" is a bit mad but it grows on you and it's probably the one melody on this album that'll be humming in your head for days on end. God knows what the hell they're on about lyric-wise - 'happy coloured marbles rolling in my head' and the advice: "give them to the one you love". It's scary but lovable and poignant at the same time. The happy chirpy chorus might have you singing and skipping along until your confronted with by a dark, orchestral bombast of a finale. But a sprightly rhythm is soon resumed with the goofy and slapstick "Hey There Fancypants" that should have you giggling away if you haven't already. It's like something a clown would sing at a circus. Silly perhaps, but you might still be impressed by the stunning instrumental arrangement.
Following the prog-rock "Captain" we come to what Ween describe as one of their "brown songs" (don't ask me why). On the surface Chocolate Town is a pleasant upbeat number with some lovely bass riffs and twangy leads Not really sure what the lyrics are about, not sure if I want to know what the lyrics are about. Whatever they're on about, this is one track that gets better every time you listen.
After the simple but sublime serpentine electric guitar solo on "I Don't Want It" - one of my favourite Ween tracks - we are greeted with the ridiculous thudding frenzy of the "The F**ked Jam". Just as you're floating off towards some psychotropic sunset you're suddenly dragged back down into some dark subterranean cavern. "The F**ked Jam" has to be the other main contender for the most irritating track on the album. It's maybe slightly more bearable than "So Many People..." and presents an interesting experimental sound that has the hallmark of Ween's quirky twisted humour. It's kind of like banging your head against a brick wall and speaking Chinese whilst on speed - at least that's what imagine it to be like.
The penultimate track "The Argus" has an arrangement very reminiscent of something by "Yes" or "Camel" with its quivering vocals, melodic guitar riffs, reverberating bubbly keyboard notes and polyrhythmic finale. This gives way to the grand finale of the album: "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)", which begins in a kind of mournful lament that slowly builds up into a complex swirling crescendo of layered string arrangements, percussion, keyboards and bass. You might recognise the definite similarities in chord sequence to "Five Years" by David Bowie and the quieter interludes reminiscent of Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon". Not my favourite track, but an impressive powerful anthem nevertheless.
Alongside albums such as The Mollusc, Chocolate and Cheese, and Pure Guava, this is one of Ween's better albums packed with 15 tracks that give a good idea of bands musical capabilities. Gene and Dean Ween aka Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo are intelligent and innovative composers - serious musicians that never take themselves too seriously. It might take you a while to appreciate the quirky complexity of their music and the wry comic edge contained within it, but from the bizarre to the sublime, Quebec is a kaleidoscopic trip into an extraordinary musical imagination.
© Zmugzy 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 It's Gonna Be A Long Night
3 Transdermal Celebration
4 Among His Tribe
5 So Many People In The Neighbourhood
6 Tried And True
7 Happy Coloured Marbles
8 Hey There Fancypants
10 Chocolate Town
11 I Don't Want It
12 Fucked Jam
13 Alcan Road
15 If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)