White Pepper

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White Pepper is Ween's most accessible album to date, lacking their trademark flights of fancy and exuberant bizarreness. By any other standard, White Pepper is a weird, wild ride. Let's face it -- no other band would even think of recording tracks as diverse as the Brit-pop-styled "Even If You Don't," the Jimmy Buffett parody "Bananas and Blow," a slamming hardcore punk song named after a Burt Reynolds flick ("Stroker Ace"), a tape-warped baroque instrumental called "Ice Castles," and the psych-prog-tinged soft-rock epic "Back to Basom," let alone sequencing all of them in a row. To neophytes, such whiplash shifts in mood may seem alienating (or intriguing, depending on their taste), but to any hardcore fan, it's not surprising and it might not even seem as funny as before. But, if you're listening to Ween just to chuckle, you're missing the point anyway, since they're not just consummate satirists -- check out the wonderful "Pandy Fackler," which mimics Steely Dan's lush jazz-pop, down to Gene's deadly Donald Fagen imitation -- they're consummate songwriters and musicians. Ween's music rewards multiple plays and White Pepper is ample proof. It may not be bracing, nor is it gonzo, yet it's a tight album filled with more pop gems than most bands can hope to achieve in their career. If that seems like hyperbole, especially for a duo that still indulges in silly dirty jokes, it's not. Yes, they may push the boundaries of good taste, but the music is always convincing, from the trippy "Exactly Where I'm At" and "Flutes of Chi" to the minor-key country stomper "Falling Out" and reflective ballad "She's Your Baby." If White Pepper isn't as crazy, funny, or sprawling as their previous albums, so be it -- it's more satisfying than most records.

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