Ever since Ween announced its dissolution in 2012, the band’s fans have agonized over what might come next from founding members Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman and Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo. Some of them figured they pretty much had the group’s dynamic nailed; because Melchiondo was the huskier-voiced entity in the group and already had side projects like Moist Boyz on his resume, the lighter, more “songwriterly” material must have been Freeman’s contribution. That assumption gained credence when his first “post-Ween” album Free.man appeared on Dine Alone Records in 2014. It is finally with the release of the long-awaited, much anticipated solo album from the Dean Ween Group, The Deaner Album, that fans and critics will really get the chance to discover how absolutely, positively shallow their assumptions about Melchiondo’s contributions to Ween were though; simply said, The Deaner Album marks the emergence of an absolutely incredible musical talent – he simply chose to share the spotlight before now.
Now, to be fair, The Deaner Album begins exactly how many critics may have expected it would. As it opens, listeners will find they’re only tepidly excited by “Dickie Betts” because it’s just such a typical song to hear coming out of a guitarist’s side project. True, Melchiondo nails the tone and attack that Betts brought to the Allman Brothers Band (brown sugar-sweet Les Paul leads propped up by a guitar-centered, caramel-flavored rhythm figure – check), but it’s just so very ‘of the norm’ for a guitar player that, at first, it causes sighs of disappointment. It’s just so by-the-book! It’s precisely what fans would expect of ANY guitar player – and that it’s an instrumental number only furthers that point.
Happily, the whole world seems to flip on its head (some Ween fans would say, ‘as it should’) immediately after “Dickie Betts” runs out and “Exercise Man” runs out on a distinctly ‘brown’ tack. THIS is where many dots come to be connected for listeners who had previously underestimated Melchiondo (among whom I must confess that I should count myself); the speedy, stringy guitar which drives “Exercise Man” pushes the track along manically in much the same way “Ocean Man” and “Waving My Dick In The Wind” did on The Mollusk and “Take Me Away” did on Chocolate and Cheese, and instantly causes adrenaline levels to shoot up and inspire those who hear it to begin dancing ecstatically – it’s absolutely delightful.
After “Exercise Man” gets the album really moving, The Deaner Album continues to shoot out sparks of brilliance which are guaranteed to hold listeners enthralled by touching upon all of the points which always tickle a Ween fan’s fancy through the muscular/elastic “Bundle Of Joy,” the desert rock tones which color “Charlie Brown,” the minute-long, “Hey Fancy Pants”-esque instrumental recreation “Schwartze Pete” and the sexy-ish, sweaty nod to Prince “Mercedes Benz” which will have those who loved Ween sighing in fits of rapture. While there are a couple of weaker moments in this runtime (“Gum” is a throwaway, the Hendrix nod “Gerry” is kind of tame and the overdriven, overrun “Take It and Break It”), those are easy enough to forget when they’re only laced as they are between the gems on The Deaner Album.
“So how does The Deaner Album stack up in the end,” you plead? Here it is made plain for readers: The Deaner Album is an unbelievably good album. It is easily better than all of the Moist Boyz albums and is also better than Freeman’s debut album, in this critic’s opinion. Further, The Deaner Album makes a great impression because it illustrates how talented and versatile a songwriter Melchiondo really is, and how instrumental that talent was to Ween’s work; a fact which had been rendered a little unclear until now. It is for all of those reasons that listeners in general and Ween fans in specific will be won by The Deaner Album. This release is not to be missed.