Ween - Chocolate and Cheese
It's difficult to explain precisely what the allure of Ween is to a person that has no previous knowledge of them. Ever since reaching pseudo-fame in the early, alternative-focused 90's, they've been derided and dismissed as a gag band, a musical venture that is at the same time both whimsical yet altogether serious.
At its core, Ween is a band driven by two old friends from New Hope, Pennsylvania. They grew up writing all manner of songs, informed by each of their eclectic influences. With that background, it's no surprise that each of their albums has a wildly different feel and aesthetic.
Chocolate and Cheese, their 1994 album, is where I was first introduced to their unique brand of songwriting. With a tracklist that runs from the shuffle-rock opening of "Take Me Away" to the uber-creepy yet satisfying dirge of "Spinal Meningitis" to more feel good, jammy tracks like "Voodoo Lady" and "The HIV Song" (seriously), is there anything this band can't do?
Such was the feeling I got at 16, when my brother excitedly offered up this gleaming compact disc with smokin' tunes and a cover to match. Listen after listen, the breadth of the material paid dividends slowly, over time, and ultimately opened me up to their earlier albums. Luckily, the central duo of Gean and Dean Ween have never jumped the shark, and are still considered more local heroes than bona fide indie icons. In their 20+ year career, they've released 10 studio albums, a handful more live discs and early demos, and are said to have recorded over 1,000 songs.
While there are arguably better Ween albums than Chocolate and Cheese, it still remains as one of their most important albums and the pivotal project that got me in the door. If you're looking for a band with a treasure trove of brilliant work, start here, and prepare to accept the Boognish.