A Very Strange Direction in Rock n’ Roll: Ween’s “The Pod”

by Nick Papanicholas

By now, the ins and outs of rock n’ roll have been muddied and stomped upon for decades. Lots of directions have been explored in the genre, as well as the creation of new genres like alternative and metal, producing many interesting sounds and people who got their inspiration from the godfathers of rock music, such as Hendrix and The Beatles. The sheer magnitude of the genre itself can be widely considered overdone and explored to the very end. Popular music once used to be dominated by rock, but now it’s filled with superficial rap and songs that are auto tuned to explode. Occasionally, I’ll find something out there that isn’t so derivative, but sadly those discoveries have been few and very far between.

That’s where Ween’s The Pod comes in. No album has perplexed me as much as this record. At 23 tracks and an hour and seventeen minutes, this album is a behemoth, and could even be considered a double album just from the length. When this record was released in September of 1991, it didn’t climb the charts or have an appeal to the younger audience, boomers, beatniks, Eskimos, or the adult contemporary market. The only audience I can think of that this album appealed to was fans of the band.

Up to this point, Ween had released their debut album GodWeenSatan in 1990, which is a compilation of songs that were fan favorites from the past several years when the band was just two high school buddies with some audio equipment, cassettes, guitars, and an eclectic sense of humor. Their earlier outings before GWS are very hard to get a hold of since they were only released on cassette and were distributed by Gene Ween and Dean Ween (Aaron Freeman and Michael Melchiondo) in their hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania. Their sound very much reflected the equipment available to them at the time, which wasn’t very much to begin with. This album isn’t that much different from those early recordings.

The sound quality gives the listener the impression that this album was recorded on subpar equipment that was cheap and easily accessible. In this case, the listener would be correct. The liner notes on the album say this was recorded on a Tascam four-track cassette recorder between January and October 1990. During this time, Dean and Gene lived in an apartment they dubbed “the Pod” that sat in the middle of a horse farm in Solebury Township, PA, and was apparently a haven for flies. This might have inspired the duo to create a very muddy sounding album that really reflects their living situation, as well as the fact that both came down with cases of mononucleosis during the time this album was recorded.

Nevertheless, what we get here is an album that disturbed, jumbled, and reinvented what rock music is, or was up until this point. The cover art pays homage to a greatest hits album by Leonard Cohen released in 1975, but features Mean Ween on the cover with a mask that some might say is used to inhale Scotchguard, which Ween themselves credit to inspiring the 3,600 hours of tape they had used for this album. As nonsensical, dark, and eclectic this album may be to listeners, it holds up as being some of the most creative sounds I’ve ever heard in music. Some might even say this is perfect music to listen to when you’re sick, and given the current state of affairs on our planet, this album should be hailed as a driving force in music that doesn’t sound quite right, but still does its very best to bring something entirely new to the rock genre, and music as a whole. Ween should take pride in not sounding the best or being perfect because it’s okay to not be okay.