Has there ever been a band weirder — album for album, song for song — than Ween? There might be a handful to consider for the sake of due diligence, but few groups could hold a weirdness candle to Shinola, Vol. 1, a collection of undated outtakes from Gene and Dean Ween's vaults. The slapdash sweepstakes begin with "Tastes Good on th 'Bun," which wraps jagged post-punk/goth riffs around a hissed vocal ode to hot dogs, dicks or both. That leads, naturally, into "Boys Club," a hokey treehouse jam drafted over jazzy guitar chords, kiddie handclaps and glue-sniff harmonies. The next step would almost have to be… a slow and moody love song delivered with as much reverence as a love song could ever hope for.
Deliciously preposterous changes in tone and sound are typical of Ween, but Shinola ups the ante by doing away with the pretense of playing like a "proper album." The songs sound like they could've been recorded at any point in the band's career, and more than half stand among Ween's best. "Gabrielle" is a monster hit from some secret unheard corner of '70s rock. "Transitions" could light up an '80s school dance (provided kids who would dig stepping on toes to lines like "Harry Truman is the holy son"). "The Rift" is at least as hypnotic and transporting as it is disarmingly funny. Only in the context of Ween could such songs sit alongside the dead-on Prince funk of "Monique the Freak" and the flute-strewn Jewish devotional "Israel." The swerves make almost no sense by any conventional measure, which makes the odds-and-ends Shinola as good a Ween album as any.