Ween - The Mollusk (Cover Artwork)


The Mollusk (1997)


Trying to neatly summarize Ween is like trying to look at a magic eye picture while wearing sunglasses. You can't just listen to a few songs, or even an album, and think that you have a clear idea of the band. Almost every song they have ever written belongs to a different genre, yet they have mastered them all so they can't be dismissed as a half-assed novelty act. However, their immense musical eclecticism and quirkiness has sometimes led to a lack of cohesiveness, with early albums like GodWeenSatan: The Oneness and The Pod carving out their expansive niche in experimental fits that had numerous great ideas, but lacked focus. It wasn't until the band rented a beach house on the shores of Holgate, N.J. and recorded 1997's nautical odyssey The Mollusk that the group reached new heights, while maintaining their playfulness and juggling of genres.

Though every song has its own distinct allure, The Mollusk is a concept album about the romantic appeal of life at sea. Shelled creatures, mythical aquatic monsters, pirates, wistful sailors: it's all here, conveyed with a warped sense of humor. While the topics involved go a long way towards evoking imagery of a maritime persuasion, the true push forward comes from the sea-sick lurch of the music itself, which is a varied throwback to the progressive rock groups Ween grew up adoring.

Arpeggios and rhythmic guitar patterns fuse with curious wind instruments, trumpets, violins and the Mellotron to create intricate and multi-layered songs. "Polka Dot Tail," with its start-and-stop structure, paints a vivid impression of a whale splashing around in the ocean. Profanity-ridden ballad "The Blarney Stone" appears to have been recorded in a tavern crowded by drunken pirates; you can even hear beer mugs being thrown around in a drunken haze. "She Wanted to Leave" is an emotional sea shanty that may even tug at your heartstrings, despite it being completely tongue-in-cheek.

In recording this album, Ween has demonstrated their near-mastery of contemporary musical genres. Which other band, purely because they felt like it, could pull off a nautically-themed album filled with songs strange and enticing, surreal and delightful? From whimsical ditties, to self-reflective ballads about love lost, to drunken pirates chanting in a bar, everything here is perfectly realized. The filtering of progressive rock elements in a non-pretentious manner is fun and weird, and at times even sad. Although usually glanced over by music fans due to Ween's reputation as jokesters, The Mollusk is a musical gem from the nineties, as well as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.