25 years ago today, on September 20th 1991, Shimmydisc released a 23-track epic by WEEN, a little known duo hailing from the town of New Hope Pennsylvania. That LP was titled The Pod, after the nickname for the apartment that the pair shared at the time. It was recorded with budget means on a Tascam 4-track; featured a cover image constructed out of altered album art from a Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits LP; and it’s a fucking masterpiece. Although there was definitely previous output by the group,The Pod is often considered to be WEEN‘s 2nd “official” album, after God Ween Satan – The Oneness [Twin/Tone,1990] which, more or less, compiles earlier material from cassette releases, etc. As their career progressed, so did the production value and, after Pure Guava (1993) and Chocolate And Cheese (1994) managed to finally garner them some more widespread, albeit small-scale, attention, Elektra sought to capitalize off the band’s recent success by issuing a re-release of their sophomore effort in 1995.
Most people hadn’t encountered The Pod prior to the Elektra reissue, so the decision to make it available at that time, specifically, was an interesting one, since for many it would, essentially, seem like a “brand new” album. This is not completely unlike when Nirvana‘s Incesticide, a compilation of previously unreleased cuts and covers, suddenly appeared in stores with little fanfare, following the breakout success of Nevermind with it’s massive radio-friendly production value. During that period, WEEN had already put in motion some notable shifts in both operation and sound. Initially just a two-piece performing live shows while backed by a DAT machine, the Chocolate AND Cheese era saw them traveling as a full band, laying the groundwork for what would evolve into one of the most impressive live acts ever, let alone working today. C&C would be followed first by 12 Golden Country Hits (an, otherwise, aptly titled release had there not only been 10 tracks) and the nautical themed The Mollusk, both of which presented a focus and cohesiveness beyond anything that Dean and Gene had ever approached before. To drop The Pod — a scattered lo-fi display of left-field sounds, murky distortion, and drug-fueled melody — back into the mix, when the label did, wasn’t exactly going to propel their signees into Top-40 stardom. I’m sure that for a number of people, hearing it at that point would have seemed regressive, at best, but to others like myself, it sounded like nothing short of a goddamn triumph.
One of the beauties of the group, beyond their undeniable musicianship, brilliant songwriting, and uncanny ability to shift between genres on a dime, is how, throughout their evolution from a pair of teenage wingnuts freaking unsuspecting strangers in tiny venues to selling out huge multi-night runs and headlining festivals, they have managed to maintain that indescribable rawness that is unique to only them as individuals and collaborators — aka their “brownness.” The Pod captures that quality and, for my money, nothing sounds more “WEEN” than that album does. If ever asked what my favorite of their releases is, I will typically respond with Pure Guava — it’s the first one that I ever heard and, as their major label debut, it captures a moment where the boys were able to more fully incorporate certain textures and realize their visions in ways in which they may have been limited in the past, employing new tactics of bringing their living room recording fuckery into hyper-color. That being said, if I’m being completely honest with myself, nothing really beats out The Pod; its grittiness and ability to encapsulate what this band means to me at its core cannot be overstated. It very well may be the perfect WEEN album.
When asked to turn someone onto the band; however, it’s still not typically the first WEEN album that I suggest, unless I’m absolutely not concerned with scaring them away or not, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the first one that I want to. White Pepper was the most sensible choice to ease my girlfriend into the wondrous chaos summoned by the fake brothers from New Hope and, although she’s seen them multiple times and has become a fan in her own right, she has never looked favorably upon The Pod. Last year, when the album was given the clear double-vinyl treatment as a Record Store Day, Black Friday exclusive, I convinced her to sit and listen to it in it’s entirety with me and, witnessing her finally absorb it with full appreciation for the first time was a huge milestone for someone like myself, who can’t help but care about, otherwise, inconsequential shit like this. Over the 10-plus years that we’ve been together, there is a lot that she’s warmed up to — she’s been known to put on Exmilitary by Death Grips, or hear some Finnish psychedelic black metal and suggest that we pick up the album — but The Pod felt doomed to exist in the realm occupied by the likes of Zappa‘s Baby Snakes and The Shaggs where it was simply never gonna happen. The thing about the 4-track opus is that there are some really beautiful, intimate moments on there that one would never even get to if they were turned away by the most abrasive moments early on. And regardless of how random the record might seem, I encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to all 23 tracks straight through for some time — or ever before, for that matter — to challenge themselves to do so. As an overall piece, it’s fairly amazing.
It’s never been much of a secret to fans that there was more material created around The Pod era that was never released; the band themselves have been pretty open about the fact that they have an endless amount of music recorded throughout the span of their careers, which no one else has ever even heard before. In 2005, Shinola Vol 1 was released, consisting of exactly that sort of content, and ever since then, there’s been an impatient wait for volume 2 to arrive. Just today, Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo decided to post an outtake from The Pod sessions via his youtube page, giving the folks a little taste of what they’re continuously clamoring for, while paying tribute to that miraculous record that they put out a full 2 1/2 decades ago. In the video description for the song, titled “I Wuz’ Nothin,” Deaner included the following…
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of our 2nd “official” album, here is a classic Ween outtake from the record, mixed in 1992 by Andrew Weiss. should’ve been on the record, but better late than never, enjoy!
WEEN finally reformed this February after a 4-year breakup and there is plenty of demand for them to release some new material, but with continued rumors of a Shinola Vol 2 in the works, there are probably just as many who would be equally content with hearing the stuff that has been indefinitely shelved. The Pod is just one piece of evidence pointing to the fact that WEEN isn’t simply a band that was/is ahead of its time, but a musical force that exists outside of our own dimension. So, while we anxiously await whatever is to come, there are also plenty of gems that are ripe to be mined from the past. If nothing else, we have at least one more that has been dusted off for our enjoyment. And thank Boognish that we do.