How much you enjoy Ween can often depend on how much you appreciate their regular explorations of bad taste. If you’re easily offended, then chances are, Ween generally aren’t for you. That said, an album like The Mollusk does reveal that there’s more to Ween than just being They Might Be Giants with frequent lapses in good taste.
The thing with bands that rely on humour as part of their appeal, is that they can often be much more musically achieved than those who take a none-more-serious approach to their chosen art form. Take an album like The Mollusk, an album that, on paper at least, is almost impossible to take seriously. If you remove the vocals from this album, you’ll be listening to a musically diverse and mature instrumental album which pays homage to prog rock in a refreshingly unique way that reflects Ween’s genuine love and understanding of what can be an utterly unforgiving genre. Everything is immaculately played and on the occasions that Ween feel the need to sound like they’re just goofing around, then they’re prepared for that as well.
Of all the Ween albums that I’ve heard, The Mollusk is the most listenable and continues to stand up well to repeated listens, with its nautical concept and great songs like the freaky “Mutilated Lips”, the disarmingly straight forward “It’s Gonna Be (Alright)”, the splendid “Buckingham Green”, the joyous “Ocean Man” and the really quite beautiful title track. Ween also pull of the unusual feat of managing to make an instrumental genuinely funny with the gloriously odd “Pink Eye (On My Leg)”.
The tracks on The Mollusk where Ween genuinely do drop the ball totally are absolutely awful though. “The Blarney Stone”, a mock sea shanty / cliché Irish drinking song which is an embarrassment to not only the band, but also any poor unfortunate who happens to be listening, and “Waving my Dick in the Wind”, which is just an unnecessary change of mood and tone at the exact moment in the album where you start to think that you may have unfairly misjudged Ween in the past. While these are just temporary lapses of taste, they really do drag you out of the listening experience for no better than reason than to score a couple of cheap laughs from those who prefer their Ween to be as low brow as possible.
This is a real shame, as The Mollusk works so well as a genre tribute. Where it hits the spot, it could be considered some of the finest rock music of the decade, and if you remove the two lesser tracks, it could genuinely be considered one of the finest listening experiences of the era. By turns surprising, playful and childish, The Mollusk is worthy of investigation, as it’s a great listen for those prepared to listen beyond the puerile humour.