La Cucaracha

{grate 2}

Ween are completely insane. As if to prove this, La
Cucaracha sounds like Michael Stipe, Boz Scaggs, Steven Tyler, Bob Marley,
Donovan, New Wave, Toby Keith and three hillbillies, all fighting to the death
over a methadone syringe while Dean and Gene Ween shout encouragement,
masturbate and then hold a little pity party.

The album’s only standout is “Learnin’ to Love,” a
foot-stomping acid-country anthem that finds Ween at their best, cruelly
deconstructing every genre they come across, then transforming the detritus
into an impeccable homage and/or sadistic joke. Unfortunately, the remainder of
Cucaracha is neither malicious nor immaculate. “Friends” is a middling disco
loop — watered down from its synthed-out Eurohouse iteration on this summer’s
Friends EP — and “The Fruit Man” is a plodding reggae burner, perhaps
successful only in its imitation of the shallow drudgery churned out by the
Marley pedigree (read: Ziggy to Damian).

Ween’s last tour was canceled due to “an immediate
intervention for the health, welfare and safety of one of its members,” and
three years later, the addiction still shows — Cucaracha smacks of rehab, all
dull introspection and slow soberiety, burnt-out and bland. Gag-rockers Dean
and Gene have lost themselves in a convoluted post-modern maze of parody and
technical earnestness; in other words, Ween have become the punchline to their
own existence.

— Dan Edelstein

Staff Writer

Band of Horses
Cease to Begin
Sub Pop

{grate 3.5}

Throughout their tightly packaged follow-up to 2006’s
half-hearted flyaway Everything All the Time, Band of Horses never once break
an almost intimidatingly naive stargaze, sharpened by a rolling indie-pop
standard to set even the most closeted Brokeback Mountaineer swooning. Each of
the 10 tracks are sold dead-hard to the last breath and lingering minor, an
advertising campaign — certainly in the best interest of timid pussyrockers the
plains over — for the magic in keeping a straight face.

No matter how impossibly innocent (“When I lived alone/ Is
there a ghost in my house?”) or hilariously mushy (“Watch how you treat every
living soul”) this Southeastern sextet reveals itself to be, snide judgments
are much more difficult to aim when up against vocalist Ben Bridwell’s droopy
puppy-dog eyes, so full-mooned that they flash with an unmistakable reflection
of all our own hidden sappy parts. And the longer we’ve stayed quiet, the
bigger challenge it becomes to hurt his feelings — this strained voice that so
loves to be sweet, this vulnerable small town cousin to happy-sad heroes like
the Shins, the Flaming Lips and My Morning Jacket — almost like he’d know if we
said something bad about him; or worse, like we’d really be poking fun at our
own soft spots.

This year, Horses shrug their shoulders of distortional
pretensions for a jangly parade of unabashed emo-pop, nerdier in all its folky,
lovedrunk simplicity but all the more relatable for it. “The world is such a
wonderful place!” Bridwell calls into the “Garden State” canyon, without even
the faintest trace of sarcasm or self-mockery. It’s an endearing shell he’s
been hiding under — one we only wish we had the guts to wear in public.

Band of Horses perform live Nov. 26 at the Glass House in

— Simone Wilson

Hiatus Editor

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