CD Review of La Cucaracha by Ween
Recommended if you like
Frank Zappa, Flaming Lips, They Might Be Giants, LSD & Mushrooms
Label
Rounder
Ween: La Cucaracha

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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W
een records, at their best, are scattered all over the place, exploring, stretching and at times lampooning genres and other artists. They have pulled off unbelievable chameleon-like performances, such as “Gabrielle” from Shinola, Volume I, which perfectly mimics and delivers Thin Lizzy. Most records slip in and out of styles and soundscapes. On most occasions, as potentially distracting as that format is, it has been satisfying and uniquely Ween because it is well done and well executed. Their unique range is interesting but it is the material that always stands up.

Although much has been made of La Cucaracha and its party vibe, Ween finally feels disjointed and forced. Even though it has been quite some time since they sat down and put together a studio album (2003’s Quebec was the last true studio album; 2005’s Shinola, Volume I was gathered from tracks which had been laying around the studio) this one sounds uninspired. “Blue Balloon” reminds me of “Ocean Man” and sounds like it should have been featured on SpongeBob SquarePants (just like “Ocean Man,” from 1997’s The Mollusk, which really was on the SpongeBob movie soundtrack). That song sounds like they were re-tracing their steps, not establishing new ones. The Pet Shop Boys vibe of “Friends” falls flat (additional demerits are earned for the overuse of the word “friends” within the song). The honky tonk of “Learnin’ to Love” is fair but not remarkable. The pure vulgarity of “My Own Bare Hands” doesn’t feel shocking or provocative; it’s kind of boring and sounds desperate. “The Fruit Man,” a reggae song that feels as if it is 10 minutes too long (even though it clocks in at 4:01), is the most annoying track they have ever recorded. 

All is not lost. “Fiesta” is pretty cool, featuring a Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass vibe. In the publicity package, Deen indicates that he truly hopes that Taco Bell picks up the song for use in its commercials. “Lullaby” is a beautiful piano and voice ballad that has a sincere vibe -- a unique approach for Ween; most of the time, they wear their sardonic nature like badge of honor. The 10-plus minutes of “Woman and Man” recovers from the bongos and tambourines beginning to become a very good jam song.

In the end, the material just isn’t up to normal Ween standards. Usually they sound inspired while swiftly moving in and out of genres. La Cucaracha is assembled as if Ween were required (not inspired) to come up with 12 tracks to fill a disc. I look forward to the next release while this sits in a pile that I only pick up and play when I forget what exactly they sound like (the interval is about five years). I’ll probably go back and listen to Live in Chicago to grab my Ween fix. La Cucaracha goes on my list of most disappointing releases of the year.

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