Author(s): Hank Shteamer
This is an in-depth study of a pivotal moment in Ween's development, as they became one of the world's most endearing, and enduring, cult bands. In 1993, the scruffy, pointedly silly Pennsylvania duo Ween appeared to be just another alt-rock also-ran enjoying its five minutes of post-Nirvana MTV fame. But currently the band presides over one of pop music's most devoted cult fan bases, complete with feverish bootlegging, copious online message boards, a string of Billboard 200 albums and sold-out three-hour-plus shows nationwide. How did such a seemingly frivolous project evolve into a genuine American institution? The answer might lie in 1994's Chocolate and Cheese. The album marked the first time Ween set aside its low-budget home-recording style in favor of entering a bona fide studio. Sporting a lusher sound though still retaining the insular oddness that had made the band's early work so charming, Chocolate and Cheese reassured die-hard fans and started Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo on their way to becoming posthippie folk heroes.
Hank Shteamer speaks to the band, producer Andrew Weiss and many others in an attempt to figure out how Ween turned its grassroots goofiness into something that leftfield-pop enthusiasts everywhere could appreciate. "33 1/3" is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 60 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike. It was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized that there is an audience for whom "Exile on Main Street" or "Electric Ladyland" are as significant and worthy of study as "The Catcher in the Rye" or "Middlemarch...The" series, which now comprises 29 titles with more in the works, is freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration - "The New York Times Book Review", 2006. This is a brilliant series...each one a word of real love - NME (UK). For more information on the series and on individual titles in the series, check out our blog.
Originally from Kansas City, MO, Hank Shteamer now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He writes about rock, jazz and experimental music for Time Out New York, Signal to Noise, The Wire and various other publications; he also maintains a personal blog, Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches. He plays drums in several bands, including STATS and Blouse.