Ween - The Mollusk (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


The Mollusk (1997)


Widely considered Ween’s definitive release, The Mollusk found the band both embracing and distancing themselves from their earlier incarnations. Recorded over a two year span (a massive amount of time for the band at that point) The Mollusk found Ween evolving from its original two piece of Gene Ween and Dean Ween into its now classic five piece formation.

Certainly, the release found the band at its most refined to date. As before, the band flitted from style to style as well as making weird pastiches of styles- the title track was a sort of ‘60s hippieish jam, opening track “I’m dancing in the show tonight” was a Monty Python style showtune, and “Johnny on the Spot” was an electronic hardcore smasher. But, where the band previously had made it a specific point that they ripped from style to style in a jagged fashion, as was seen on the expansive Chocolate and Cheese album, here, the band fused the genres together and made music that was distinctly Ween-ish. Perhaps you could pick out a trace of the Beatles on songs like “Polka Dot Tail,” but this wasn’t pure homage. Rather, it was the band mastering their otherworldly, hazy style and applying to a single mood and creating a unified statement.

The band connected these ideas by applying a nautical theme to the vast majority of the tracks. Really, only two of the songs don’t touch on the ocean somehow. Here, the band perfected their unique style of story telling. One thing that Ween has, perhaps singularly, mastered is coming from an insolvable perspective. Throughout the release (and their catalogue as a whole), it was never clear if the band was making fun of the styles and topics they were addressing, paying homage to their influences, showing true appreciation for a collection of neglected genres, or just being weird for the sake of weird. “Mutilated Lips,” rustled by in a wash of acoustic guitars by Dean, ghostly vocals by Gene, and spooky synthesizers, in an entirely strange and near incomprehensible song- yet in this strange mix, the band painted a surrealist picture that is as fascinating as it is unique- perhaps they were creating a puzzle with no true final plan in mind?

Perhaps frustratingly, the Mollusk also introduced a new element that would plague some fans for years to come- the jam band element. Really, Ween has never released a single “jam band song,” but following the relatively mellow sounding Mollusk album, jam band fans, who were equally attracted to the band’s substance appreciation and LSD imagery, would claim the band as their own. The band, in a way, feed off this, releasing subsequent albums and songs that were nuanced, but rarely, if ever, reached the raw punkish ferocity of the band’s early DIY releases. That is to say, where Ween once exhibited unhinged, crazed, speed-fed fury, they now projected the warm happiness of mellow psychedelics. That’s not to say one path was better than the other, but there definitely as a change of aesthetic with this album. (and, it probably didn’t hurt that jam band fans are willing to pay a lot of money for jam band festival tickets whereas punkers cry over any ticket that costs $9 or more).

To this day, Ween continues to be one of the bands that exists on their own level- comparisons can be made, but the usually all fall short. The band defies genre simply because they embrace all genres and willfully craft outside any prescribed boundaries. This concept didn’t begin for the band on The Mollusk, but it was where this concept was brought to maturity and magnificence.