Ween | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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"This band has no future": I forget whether it was Beavis or Butt-head who said that in 1993, apropos of the video for Ween's breakout single, "Push th' Little Daisies." Either way, it was a bad call--what the insanely versatile songwriting team of Gene and Dean Ween (aka Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo of New Hope, Pennsylvania) has struggled to surmount is a surplus of possible musical futures. They've dealt with the problem by choosing not to choose: in the course of eight studio albums, they've had a go at MOR love songs, prog rock, glam rock, folk rock, 60s psychedelia, Tin Pan Alley, Celtic balladry, soul, Beatlesque pop, every alloy of heavy metal ever smelted, punk, funk, avant-garde junk, defiantly non-alt country, and the bullshit-calypso stylings of Jimmy Buffet. On one level, of course, it's all been a massive pisstake, well calculated to alienate any rock fan suffering from even the mildest case of irony deficiency. But behind their smart-ass smirks and juvenile poop jokes, Ween harbors an incredible gift for melody and a capacious love for rock music in practically all its forms. The duo's sectarian fan base differ violently on what it is they do best, but for my money it's their amazing prog pastiches, which simultaneously lampoon and redeem that most embarrassing of rock subgenres; their 1997 masterpiece, The Mollusk, miraculously enabled me to salvage something beautiful from the adolescent eternities I spent listening to Yes, ELP, Rush, King Crimson, et al. Like 2000's White Pepper, their new Quebec (Sanctuary) provides a genre-hopping tasting menu: "It's Gonna Be a Long Night" is one of the best Motorhead songs ever recorded; "Captain" issues from the same vaporous stoner dimension as Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan"; "Among His Tribe" could be a great lost track from Pink Floyd's Ummagumma; "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)" is a glam-rock epic to equal the best of early Bowie; and "Chocolate Town" revisits the Nashville sound of 1996's 12 Golden Country Greats while filling the band's strict poop-joke quota. Ween is a famously generous live act--expect a heartfelt, high-energy, three-hour extravaganza. The Friday and Saturday shows are sold out. Friday through Sunday, November 7 through 9, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.


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