Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26: Ween, "Roses Are Free"

Artist: Ween
Song: "Roses Are Free"
Album: Chocolate And Cheese
Year: 1994

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Though making truly unique music is a very difficult process that takes great amounts of dedication, it is often the bands that take themselves less seriously that end up producing the most intriguing songs with this approach.  Yet even when a band does succeed in this manner, it is usually short lived, and the band returns to a more novelty type sound soon thereafter.  Then of course, there is Ween.  Without question one of the strangest bands in history, their songs often border on offensive and are even more commonly outright nonsensical.  However, at the same time the band manages to prove time and time again that they know few peers when it comes to sheer musical talent, and their odd brand of psychedelic-pop remains a sound unmatched by any other group in history.  From their unforgettable first single, "Push The Little Daisies" to their strangely extraordinary album, 12 Golden Country Greats, Ween has proved over the past two decades that there is no sound or style in which they cannot achieve greatness, and the band showed all their musical sides on their 1994 record, Chocolate And Cheese.  Taking time to pay tribute to the late Eddie Hazel, as well as recording a pair of songs that may very well be their most offensive, Chocolate And Cheese has something for every musical fan, and one can experience everything that makes the music of Ween so fantastic in their 1994 song, "Roses Are Free."

There is truly no way to accurately describe the music that Ween plays, as it pulls from so many genres, and yet simultaneously seems to be nothing short of a musical anomaly.  The odd way in which the drums of Patricia Frey Stephan bounce across the track is unlike anything else in history, and the way in which the keyboards bring an almost carnival-like feel shows how Ween deploys psychedelic bliss for a new generation.  Adding to this distinctive sound is the bass of Mean Ween, which lends an almost sci-fi mood to the song, yet never seems out of place.  It is the distortion that is lain over nearly every instrument that gives "Roses Are Free" its distinctive sound, and the guitars from Gene and Dean Ween are no different.  Whether it is the oddly syncopated chords of the magnificent, soaring solos, the guitar work on "Roses Are Free" is nothing short of phenomenal, and it is in this aspect of the music that the groups roots in rock become most apparent.  The combined sound that runs throughout "Roses Are Free" is indescribable, as the circus-like elements are oddly balanced by the rock grandeur of the guitar solos, all the time sporting a strange groove.  This, in many ways, is the genius of Ween, as it is impossible to describe "what" it is that makes their music so amazing yet impossible to deny the fact that it is extraordinary in a way unlike anything else ever recorded.  This strange juxtaposition is the magic that makes "Roses Are Free" such a fantastic musical feat.

Using a very similar distortion to that found on the music, the vocals of Gene Ween come off as just as strange, yet brilliant.  Throughout the entire Ween catalog, Gene Ween has shown he is one of the most skilled and courageous singers of his generation, and his voice is impossible to mistake for any other.  Often singing in a style that seems detached from the music, he shows no boundaries to his vocal range, and often concentrates on using various modulators to alter the tone of his voice.  On "Roses Are Free," it often sounds like he was sucking helium before recording, and yet there is a strange authenticity to his singing.  This ability to simultaneously be silly and serious also comes through in the lyrics, as "Roses Are Free" features what is perhaps Ween's finest contrasting of the nonsensical and the philosophical.  Built around the idea that "nothing comes for free," the group uses a number of clear and abstract metaphors to convey this idea, and it is lines like, "... push it into third if you know you're gonna climb that hill..." that can be interpreted on a number of levels.  The fact that group was able to place such profound thoughts into what seems like a silly musical arrangement is the true genius of Ween, and why they clearly grasped the entire idea of the psychedelic movement in a way that no other group was able to understand.

With so many clashing sounds and ideas present, Ween shows their clear understanding of music in the fact that "Roses Are Free" never seems cluttered or chaotic, and it is instead a musical masterpiece unlike any other ever recorded.  Unquestionably some of the most talented performers of their generation, Ween is able to balance the playful and experimental nature of psychedelic music with the apathy and attitude of punk rock.  Truth be told, there has never been another band even remotely like Ween, and on every one of their songs, all the amazing talent and thought process that makes them so unique is easy to see.  "Roses Are Free" has taken on an almost second life, as jam-band legends Phish have pulled the song into quite regular rotation, and it has become a fan favorite within that community as well as within the legions of Ween fans.  Displaying a clear understanding of how to maker a song dramatic, the music on "Roses Are Free" has a stunning sense of movement, and though the tempo stays consistent throughout, the music seems to gain and slow in speed as the song plays out.  All of these juxtapositions that occur during "Roses Are Free" serve as a testament to the unparalleled level of talent within the four members of Ween, and it is perhaps their laid back attitude that helps to make their music so uniquely wonderful.  From the wild mood to the perfectly distorted instrumentation to the unforgettable lyrics, there is simply no other song that can compare to Ween's 1994 song, "Roses Are Free."

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