Their Own Sound
The Dean Ween Group’s newest release, and first solo album since the demise and eventual reformation of Ween, The Deaner Album, is an eclectic mix of styles. Its most easily recognizable influence comes from the Southern rock genre—particularly bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot. The album contains 14 tracks. Although The Dean Ween Group are not afraid to let their musicianship speak for itself, the lyrics, by Michael Melchiondo, a.k.a. Dean Ween, are equally memorable, as they they are both humorous and poignant, seemingly influenced by the punk tradition. Other musical styles leave a clear imprint on the band’s sound: notably funk, blues, rockabilly and even bluegrass. Nevertheless, it is the Southern rock genre that successfully ties this album together, allowing Melchiondo to exercise his experimental proclivities. The Deaner Album has a little something for everyone, especially the fan of straight rockin’ tunes.
As previously mentioned, the Southern rock influence is clearly prevalent on this album. Tracks like “Dickie Betts,” “Tammy” and “Doo Doo Chasers,” unveil Dean Ween’s Southern influence. “Dickie Betts” features harmonized guitar leads over blues progressions, with a classic Southern rock riff that drives the song forward. It is entirely instrumental; and, as in the first song, this is a powerful statement. A honky-tonk piano showcases the album’s eclectic array of instrumentation. “Tammy” opens with some awesome Southern rock guitar licks over a classic I-IV-V progression. The lyrics depict the experience of being on the road, and the fast-paced music reflects this nomadic lifestyle. Melchiondo sings, “Tammy, take off your panties,” from the perspective of a trucker, driving his route. Then, Melchiondo cleverly rhymes different words with “Tammy,” the person for whom the singer obviously has mixed feelings. Finally, the song culminates with face-melting guitar solos, similar to those one might find at the tail end of a Skynyrd album. “Doo Doo Chasers” maintains this Southern feel with reverberated blues solos and riffs, and a steady rhythm section. Melodic guitars ascend in the background, while synthesizers rise above the surrounding musical elements, lending a spacious feeling to the song. All of the instruments are given free rein in classic Dean fashion. Wah-wah pedals and steady grooves help to establish a “funkadelic” attitude. And towards the song’s conclusion, everything begins to fade and phase out with complexity.
One cannot deny the genius and humor prevalent within Ween’s lyrics. The album’s subject matter often seems to stem from a punk pathos, which is a refreshing songwriting approach for a rock ’n’ roll band. “Exercise Man,” for example, seeks to characterize or typify certain types of people, while pointing out societal ironies. It is a more up-tempo, hillbilly sort of song that engages in punk, Bad-Religion-esque archetypal categorization of certain social behaviors; and, as a result, it places a firm emphasis on its lyrics. The song contains Southern-style guitars as well as punk-influenced solos, with Melchiondo singing, “ride that stupid bike as hard as you can, uses the weight room at the Hotel 6… ’cause he’s the exercise man.” The ingenuity of the lyrics defines the song. “Bums” carries with it a similar, punk-inspired attitude. The song features a pounding intro, with guitars riffs that continue into its verse. Melchiondo sings, “something’s got a hold of me, and it all seems so unclear,” in another punk-style social commentary that invokes archetypes of certain groups, rendering them as “others.” Furthermore, although the drums are not the focal point, they are complex in their own right. The instrumentation and pure musicianship in this album is highly understated, a fact to which the face-melting solos in “Bums” can attest.
The Dean Ween Group are not afraid to experiment with their sound either. The song “Gum,” for instance, tests the limits of lyricism and subject matter within rock ’n’ roll genre. The song itself occupies a sort of space between genres that remains undefined. It starts with a xylophone intro, perhaps to remind Melchiondo of a more puerile time in his life. He shouts, “I like gum, all types of gum,” while accompanied by a deep, sub-bass. Some fantastic guitar-work is also featured, which is interspersed randomly with seemingly no musical order. The song finally decays into calls of, “I like mom!” “ShwartzePete” has a similarly humorous vibe. Its hillbilly feel and clean guitars “boom-chick” throughout the song, creating a sort of vinyl-distorted soundscape, defined by Americana sounds and crystal clear acoustic melodies. These folksy musical elements create a sound comparable to what one might hear from an upright bass at a country fair, or in the middle of Podunk town. It showcases rock ’n roll’s true roots.
The Deaner Album also throws in the occasional homage to metal. “Charlie Brown” establishes a metal feel with its pounding drums, as Melchiondo concedes: “my life is one big losing streak.” The melodic, minor-key, screeching guitar leads are paired with a deep, rhythmic, chugging bassline to produce a unabashedly heavy sound. And on “I’ll Take It and Break It” these distinctive metal influences return. The deeply distorted guitars are the focal point here, offering Slayer-esque riffs that are noisy and in-your-face, accompanied by equally aggressive lyrics: “I’ll take it, and break it, and burn it.”
However, perhaps the most impressive song of the album is “Garry.” Its style is much less aggressive than many of the album’s other offerings. Twinkling, clean guitars shimmer over the drums and a subtle bass. At times, the song sounds anthemic, while, at others, the Southern-style playing reemerges, complete with bends and harmonics. The track is instrumental, offering highly distinctive melodic material and catchy riffs that perfectly evoke the group’s ability to make fantastic music in their own humorous, and eclectic fashion.