WEEN’s latest offering is the sixth live recording that the duo has released since 1999. “AT THE CAT’S CRADLE, 1992” is a juicy nugget of Ween goodness which, features an audio disc of a 21 song live show, recorded at The Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC, as well as a 21 track bonus DVD. It’s just Dean, Gene, and a Yamaha Digital Audio Tape Deck and is charged with all the energy, chaos, and, apparently opium, that you would expect from classic Ween. I think it was a great idea for them to release this, and the DVD was a lot of fun to watch.
The band has come a long way over the years and has become a bigger part of Pop Culture than most people realize. They have been on countless Motion Picture soundtracks and have had cameos on numerous movies and T.V. shows. Their music has been featured in Honda commercials, and they even did a song for Sponge Bob Square Pants. It is impossible to fit them in to one category although, I’ve seen people attempt to do it. They are commonly lumped into the “Alternative Music” category with the likes of The Cure or, perhaps… The Red Hot Chilli Peppers? I don’t think that they quite fit in there. They’re not Indie, Grunge, Gothic Rock, new wave or Punk. I once heard them classified as “Geek Rock”, with They Might be Giants, Ben Folds Five and Weezer. Nope, they don’t belong there, either. In a way, they incorporate something from all of these genres so, it’s common for someone to like a Ween song but, still, not really “like” Ween. I know grown men who can’t listen to the song “Spinal Meningitis” ’cause it’s too creepy but then, you have little kids running around listening to “Ocean Man”. It seems like the only way I’ve ever heard their music accurately explained is by comparing it with drugs. I guess you could describe their sound as Pure Rock and a whole lotta Soul, injected with opiates, shaken in a bag of weed, mixed with LSD, with intricate melodies and raw emotion floating in a sea of amazing guitar and noise, laced with PCP and doused with a gallon of whiskey. I remember once when I was 14 and I played “Push the Little Daisies” for my big brother’s friend. He was a lot older than me and knew quite a bit about music. “So… What kind of music IS this?” he wondered. I told him I thought that maybe it was, Punk? “No, no. I know a lot about Punk. This is definitely not punk.” He said. I just smiled, shrugged, and said “It’s Ween!” What it comes down to is that there are two kinds of people: People who “get” Ween, and People who don’t. If you are in the category of people who do, you’re gonna love this shit.
If you ARE a hard core fan, you may think that you have heard and seen it all before. I know that is what I came in to this thinking but, trust me; you will totally dig “At the Cat’s Cradle“. The set list mostly consists of songs from their first three studio releases, God WEEN Satan: The Oneness (1990), The Pod (1991), and Pure Guava (1992). They do, however, perform one song, “Buckingham Green”, that the rest of us wouldn’t get to hear until it was released on their album, The Mollusk, in 1997. At the end of “Buckingham Green”, they start to play a little bit of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”. In fact, they play lots of little riffs from different classic rock songs throughout this recording. They also talk about Boognish (the demon that they made a pact with back in Jr. High), and about how they smoked too much opium before the show. A lot of what Ween’s music is all about stems from the chemistry between the two of them and, In a way, this release is pretty intimate. You get to see them fuck up a lot, and you get to see them just screwing around. The last live album/DVD, “Live in Chicago” (2004), was pretty much what you’d see if you went to a Ween show today and, if you were to compare the two of them, you could really see the changes that have taken place in the band’s live performance over the years. This new album is so awesome because it’s something that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to be a part of unless you were actually there. Inside the case you’ll find Dean Ween’s personal thoughts on the matter.
“From our first “real” concert in 1987 until the release of Chocolate and Cheese in 1994 we played concerts as a duo–Aaron on vocals and acoustic guitar and me on electric guitar with the bass and drums played from a cassette deck. Later on we purchased a DAT machine for the backing tracks and this speeded up our show a little. A typical Ween set was no more than an hour long, and we’d play about 24 songs in that amount of time. There was no jamming at all whatsoever. Things are a lot different now. Every night we had to face the crowd pretty much naked, there was nowhere to hide, no room for an off night. We did a lot of talking to the crowd and one another between songs, we pretty much had to. We faced a lot of hostile audiences when we were the opening act on a show. There was a lot to hate about us but we won over a lot of people in the process because of our sheer nerve. A lot of our closest friends feel that Ween live pretty much ended when we switched to a traditional band format with a bass player and drummer; I dunno about that but by the release of Pure Guava our show was no longer interesting to us. We were doing a lot more touring and playing the same songs with no room for improvising had gotten boring for us. Once we started releasing records and touring more as a duo we got a lot better at it, we stopped caring about what the audience thought of us and just focused on having fun onstage. This was when we maximized our brownness. I don’t remember too much about this concert other than the fact that we played the Cat’s Cradle a lot of times and in a few different locations. Public Enemy had played the club a few nights before and blown up the P.A. and our sound man Kirk Miller was pissed. I thought it was great because Public Enemy are one of my favorite bands of all time and I was just happy to be playing on the same stage. Our touring party consisted of Me, Aaron, and Kirk Miller, our soundman and driver. Once we signed to Elektra we added a tour manager, Paul Monahan, who would stay with us for many years. Anyway, this is pretty typical of what we sounded like on a good night those first few tours.”
The CD kicks off the show with “Big Jilm”. I still have no idea what that song is about but, I once heard a rumor that Big Jilm was their drug dealer. Who knows? What matters is that the song is still great. I also heard somewhere that Nine Inch Nails’ album “Pretty Hate Machine” is all about one girl and that seems to be the case with early Ween, too. Not entirely, but you get little insights about stuff like the fact that “Nan” and “You Fucked Up” are both about “That bitch”. I love “Nan” because … Come On! Who hasn’t always wanted to shout “He’s a fucker…And you’re a fucker too!” at their ex and the person they screwed around on you with? It’s insane! It sounds so juvenile, and it is but, it’s also pure. Right before “Nan“, Gener forgets the words on “Don’t get 2 close (2 My Fantasy)”, then the equipment shits out on them, and the tape is skipping…. It’s a disaster! At the end you get to hear them talk about how badly that song went. It’s so great! Even with all the stuff that goes wrong, it still sounds amazing and it seems so personal. Then there is a song like the ballad “Birthday Boy”. Oh Man, this song could make anyone cry. It’s sad and beautiful, and you can understand all the words. It has the kind of lyrics you don’t just make up. You know when you hear it, that this really happened. They go from this totally emotional song, into “Fat Lenny” where they scream about how Fat Lenny’s gonna lick the shellac off of the window sill. It’s Brilliant. They end the set with “Reggaejunkiejew”. I always thought this song was about exactly what it is. We learn that it is indeed about a dreddy , Jewish , heroin addicted , white dude who stole Gener’s girlfriend. The incident still seems to be fresh in their heads. They seem to be genuinely pissed off about this dude and how ridiculous he is. Dean keeps repeating: “Addicted to heroin“… “Addicted to heroin“…”Addicted to heroin“.
The simplicity of this recording (If you could ever call WEEN “simple”), and the unadulterated chaos of early Ween, is enough to give real fans that crazy feeling of excitement in the back of their spines. The same one that made them realize that they loved Ween in the first place. Their music is powerful enough to permeate your whole being and, although it isn’t on this album, before you know it, you’ll find yourself listening to a twenty minute long song about a turd. I guess that is one thing that makes this set so great; you get to feel like you are in on the joke too. It’s amazing that they have the ability to write these songs that can strike a chord inside of anyone, painting these really vivid images inside your head, and making you feel as if you know exactly how they feel, while, at the same time, they can write songs that seem like nothing other than big inside jokes, without any conventional meaning. With that being said, I still feel as if all of their songs are relevant. Even if you don’t know what a “mega-weedge” or a “Marble Tulip Juicy Tree” is, it all comes together, making sense inside you, anyway. In fact, I remember the first time I was aware that the then unborn being living inside of me could actually hear. I had turned on my car and “Pumpin’ for the Man” came blasting through the speakers. It felt like all of my daughter’s limbs flailed out at once! It was amazing.
The bonus DVD is the cherry on top of this choco brownie sundae and consists of parts cut from three different performances. Two of them are from concerts (Vera, Groningen, Netherlands 10/31/91 and Staches, Columbus, OH, 3/6/92) while the other is from an appearance on a radio show (WTSR radio, Trenton, NJ, 1/10/92). It’s funny to see how young they were in 1991! I like the footage from the radio performance because you get to witness that spark that makes them what they are. They are just fucking around in the studio, and you can tell that they totally feed off and get high off of each other (and a variety of drugs I am sure). At one point, Gene randomly goes off on a magical tangent about being a Jew. In watching their shows, you can see that some people in the audience had no idea what they had gotten themselves in to. If you think about what was popular in ’92, it’s no wonder. Def Leopard was on it’s way out with “Let’s Get Rocked”, everyone at your Jr. High was slow dancing to Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”, and Right Said Fred was singing “ I’m Too Sexy”. In the midst of all of the crap that was floating around, you have Gene and Dean singing “The Going gets Tough From the Get Go” while wearing goggles and a chef’s hat. It’s Genius.
Even If you are not a big Ween fan, there is still a chance that you could really like this release. Of course, those chances would be greatly increased if you are on acid when you see /watch this, or if you have been up on methamphetamines for three days, while continually drinking hard liquor, and you just ran over a bird. I have often said that if I could somehow obtain WEEN in a liquid form and shoot it intraveniously, I totally would. I’d say “Live at the Cat’s Cradle” comes pretty close and I’d hope that all of my fellow fans will agree when I say that “this disc is like a big shot of Boognish right in your ass!” I loved it.
For more information, listen to audio, and check out video clips from this release please check out the At the Cat’s Cradle, 1992 mini site
We recommend purchasing the CD/DVD through seeofsound.com to receive a limited edition silk screen of the cover art SIGNED BY WEEN!
Ween has also recently just released a limited edition coloring book created by artist Thea Wolfe which can be purchased @ Chocodogmerch.com
Click thumbnails below to view the cover art and a sample page.