Greatest Un-Hits: Ween’s “Ocean Man” (1997)
Ween is one of those fantastic, cult-beloved quirky bands too interesting to ever be extremely popular that should have been one of those fantastic, cult-beloved quirky bands that eventually scored a single, fluke top 40 hit that sounds nothing like anything else they usually do, the way Ben Folds Five or the Butthole Surfers got paid with “Brick” and “Pepper,” for example.
The thing with Ween is that Ween doesn’t really do just one thing. They trade in simultaneous mimicry and homage, and Deaner and Gener are such talented, technical musicians that they can always pull it off. They’ve taken the piss out of/honored George Harrison (“Flutes of Chi”), ’80s Bowie (“Your Party”), Al Green (“Freedom of ’76”), Jimmy Buffett (“Bananas and Blow”) and classic country (16 Golden Country Greats). Ween is hilarious, but never cloying, or Weird Al-wacky. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Weird Al.) Ween seems to exist on its own plane, where they make art to entertain themselves first, seeped with a “do not care” vibe.
For Ween to have scored a hit, and Ween surely does not care about scoring a hit, it would have to have been a poppy number with minimal weirdness or irony. Which is rare. Ween’s only chart successes have been with “Push th’ Little Daisies”,” a #21 alternative rock hit in 1993, and “Voodoo Lady,” which made it to #32 the year after. Neither of those songs sounds like each other, or anything else ever recorded, really, or like its 1997 faux-prog. rock concept album The Mollusk, wherein we find the poppiest, most accessible thing Ween has recorded to date: “Ocean Man.”
It was released as a radio single to little immediate notice. However, it’s so bouncy and fresh that it’s been licensed a lot, including in a Honda Civic commercial and on the The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack, which has so many bands like Ween on it that makes it the only album that your child can listen to in the minivan, and that you can listen to later when you’re tripping out on angel dust.