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Ween - Shinola, Vol. 1 Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2007
format:    16-bit CD
performance:    8.5
sound:    7
release year:    2006
label:    Music Video Dist.
reviewed by:    Jerry Del Colliano

ImageIn today’s wasteland of music where the biggest source of new musical performers seems to be Fox’s American Idol gong show, Ween simply towers over so many of the acts that fill the real and/or virtual shelves of your favorite record store. This oddball duo from the suburbs of Philadelphia are not only humorous songwriters (if not total stoners), they show literally no fear of any musical genre. Can they play a little French ditty? Sure. Booty rap? – got it covered. No recording style or musical genre scares Dean and Gene Ween. They’re like a musical version of a great improv comedian, with results that might just breathe new life into your music collection.

Ween’s new album is mostly a collection of outtakes and a few songs that were rerecorded for a more modern interpretation. Unlike other Ween projects like The Mollusk, Shinola is less a concept album as a collection of varying styles of songs from straight ahead rock-pop love songs to goofball ditties that will assuredly put a smile on your face. The unquestionable hit of the record is “Gabrielle,” which has a rocking back-beat and harkens back to a day when songs could be about a girl and that was good enough. The melody is catchy and the tune never relents with its enthusiasm. The use of overdubs allows for the Ween twosome to have quite a bit of layering, but it never leaves you wondering if they hired a pro band. Shinola, unlike the band’s country-themed album that was recorded with an all-star team of musicians, is all Ween.
“Boys Club” seems to be a song built on the lyrical themes expressed in the track “Mr. Richard Smoker” from their 12 Country Golden Greats album. While musically “Boy’s Club” is less of a large-scale country production tune-wise, it picks a lyrical theme seemingly based around alternate lifestyles, clearly more of a lark than anything. This poppy track is predictable in arrangement, and like a good 1970s pop jam is oddly infectious. People who sing along to their iPods when driving, I warn you – other drivers might think you’re a bit strange if you have your windows down. But then again – who cares what they think? Certainly not Dean and Gene Ween, so why should you?

“Tastes Good On Th’ Bun” is one of the rerecorded songs that originally saw light as a live track on their Painting the Town Brown live record. The Shinola version isn’t all that different, other than the instrumentation is a little more developed, with more use of splash cymbals. This track is mostly for hardcore Ween fans. The other rerecorded track is “Monique the Freak,” which touches on the band’s Prince fetish, the topic of musical questions from the band in the past. In their fearless approach to song styling, the rerecorded version of this track has an edgy late ‘80s Prince sound that is far more developed than the original version. The jingley guitar harkens back to Prince’s hit “Kiss,” yet the chorus has a much heavier, more distorted feel to it. Unlike most of today’s music, there is an extended guitar solo that borders on too indulgent, but considering how many of today’s bands simply don’t have the balls to rip out a lead – I am going to give Dean and Gene a free pass.

Ween is no audiophile band. Their production speaks more about what you can do recording into a computer than the state-of-the-art techniques found on bigger budget records. By no means is this a bad sounding record but it lacks the depth, presence and high-end gleam of something like their 12 Country Golden Greats.

Do yourself a favor and buy yourself Ween’s Shinola Vol.1 if you are looking for a lighthearted record that rocks, knows the funk and can put a smile on your face. It isn’t one of their 10-out-of-10 records like Chocolate and Cheese, 12 Country Golden Greats and The Mollusk; however, if you don’t have those records in your collection already, they could help you better understand the musical genius of Ween. Chocolate and Cheese might just be the best pop record in 10 years, and it’s a perfect place to fall in love with Ween.

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