Chocolate & Cheese

Chocolate & Cheese

On Ween’s fourth album, 1994’s Chocolate and Cheese, the perennially freaky duo from New Hope, Pennsylvania make the transition from no-fi brats to lush, genre-hopping tunesmiths. The most celebrated album from one of the more commercially improbable major-label bands of all time, Chocolate and Cheese perfectly distills Ween’s singular mix of the deeply catchy and the idiosyncratically obnoxious. This is an album with a beautiful, delicate, deeply personal Elliott Smith-esque indie-folk ballad—but only if you’re down for swear-pocked lyrics, pitch-shifted cartoon vocals, and the title “Baby Bitch.” And that’s hardly the album’s most far-out moment: There’s also an infectious piece of funk-metal—the lead single “I Can’t Put My Finger on It”—sung entirely in the heavily accented voice of some “guy working behind the counter at a falafel shop.” Not to mention a seven-minute Morricone-styled revenge ballad with a nylon-string guitar solo (“Buenas Tardes Amigos”) that’s slammed right next to a jaunty piece of circus rock called “The HIV Song.” Chocolate and Cheese is an acquired taste for sure—but one that yields many rewards. The band’s previous few albums had been warped, oddball, drum-machine dispatches recorded straight to four-track on their living room floor. Chocolate and Cheese marked their first Ween effort put together in an actual studio, giving new warmth to the band’s peculiar amalgam of Prince, Funkadelic, the Residents, and the Grateful Dead. “Freedom of ’76,” a tribute to guitarist Aaron Freeman’s hometown of Philadelphia, is a gorgeous Al Green-style ballad driven by the live drums of Claude Coleman, Jr. “Voodoo Lady,” a staple of MTV’s late night alt-rock show 120 Minutes, rides an infectious bongo groove to an absolutely psychotic, overdriven psych-noise solo on the bridge. The band attempts soft rock (“Joppa Road”), mid-1960s country-pop balladry (“Drifter in the Dark”), and lively lounge croon (“Take Me Away”). It’s all unmistakably Ween. While Chocolate and Cheese was hardly a chart success, it did find an audience of like-minded freaks. Jam band titans Phish understood the pop genius underneath the quirky lyrics and Technicolor noise-squelch of the album’s “Roses Are Free,” and began covering the song in 1997, giving the song a new life—and the band a new audience. But lifelong Ween devotees have always known that Chocolate and Cheese was the sound of the band firing on all cylinders—the mad creation of two musicians as comfortable with pop gold as they were with psychedelic chaos.

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