One Track Mind: Ween, "Gabrielle" (2005)

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by Pico

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a band who at times sound like a virtual clone of Yes in their prime. This time, we spotlight a musical group who has taken mimicking others to an whole ‘nother level.

Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman, aka Dean and Gene Ween, have been offering up songs that lyrically are often parodies or outright mockery of their targets. But musically, these tunes are dead-on knockoffs even as they are Ween originals, thus avoiding being lumped into the novelty act category, a la Weird Al Yankovic. Ween can sound just like Prince in one track, Pink Floyd in the next and Queensryche after that.

Most of Ween’s albums have had some sort of unifying theme to them; from the chemically-induced mess of The Pod to the polished R&B/pop rock sprawl of Chocolate And Cheese to the fake prog-rock of The Mollusk and of course, the self-explanatory 12 Golden Country Greats. It seems that just when you’ve figured them out, they’ll trot out something else that adds to a ever expanding list of music styles they’ve mastered while they mock it.

Last year’s Shinola, Vol. 1, released on their own private label, was another surprise because there was no real theme to it; it was simply a collection of rare or never-before-released tracks taken from the vaults. As a result, songs really veered from one style to another completely different one perhaps even more than usual. And yet for songs they evidently didn’t see fit to put on “normal” releases, the material is generally quite strong.

Which brings us to one of Shinola‘s tracks, “Gabrielle”. This is one of their finer examples of tribute, and for any Thin Lizzy fan looking to uncover a long, lost track of the band at its prime, they might mistakenly think they’ve stumbled upon it. The imperfect but warm analog burnish, the galloping percussion and the vintage seventies scale climbing, anthemic metal guitar solo places this recording smack dab in the Jailbreak era. And while Ween usually falls short of the original in the vocal department, they absolutely nail Phil Lynott for this go around. Lynott’s paradoxical sensitive, poetic tough guy persona comes across strong with all the same vocal inflections Phil himself would have used. The lyrics perfectly match that attitude, with lines like:

I don’t mean to be so insolent
But you know it’s cause I love you
The foundation of my malevolence
You know I’d never hurt you babe

Sometimes I might get edgy
But a man can sometimes be that way
Nobody’s perfect baby
And I’ll always love you anyway

That’s the kind of stuff that made Lizzy’s late, lamented frontman a bit quirky and even a little goofy but so beloved and missed, too. No one else had enough swagger to pull that off and be taken seriously enough to be so influential as Lynott and Thin Lizzy have. To replicate that they would have to be master charlatans. Enter Ween.

Purchase: Ween Shinola, Vol. 1

“One Track Mind” is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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