Release Date: Jul 22, 2014
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
If ever a band seemed bound by blood it was Ween, the alt-rock refugees from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo went so far as to present themselves as brothers, calling themselves Gene and Dean Ween and, like so many siblings, they shared a vernacular, an iconography, and a sense of humor. So strong did this bond seem that when Freeman decided to walk away from the band in 2012, just as the duo approached its 25th anniversary, it came as a heavy blow.
Ween broke up within a couple hours of my interview with Aaron Freeman, aka Gene Ween, in the summer of 2012. There was no mention of the impending breakup; instead, the conversation focused on his solo album Marvelous Clouds, a collection of Rod McKuen songs that Freeman and producer/friend Ben Vaughn hammered out over three one-week sessions. With the release of his first official solo album, many asked questions like, “Why cover Rod McKuen?” and “Who the hell is Rod McKuen?” The gentle rock and soft-focused recordings were a bit removed from what the typical Ween fan would either want or expect, and as such, part of the audience at Freeman’s performances listened with disgruntled looks across their brows, arms crossed, and smartass comments ready to fill the air between songs.
The man formerly known as Gene Ween has released his first album under his own name, Aaron Freeman. The 44-year-old singer’s self-titled solo album, FREEMAN, holds a lot of weight. Just the name of the record could easily stand for Freeman’s sense of self. Or it could represent his relatively new status as a free man—emancipated of the dope and the booze that marked so much of Ween and its eventual demise.
When Aaron Freeman released his debut, 2012's innocuous Rod McKuen covers album Marvelous Clouds, it left legions of Ween fans wondering just what happened to the quirky, irreverent, often-intoxicated Gene Ween of yore. On FREEMAN, his sophomore album and first collection of original material since the messy breakup of Ween, Aaron (assuming the titular FREEMAN moniker) has attempted to regain some of his goofball charm while retaining some of his more recent emotive sensibilities. The resulting 12 tracks find Freeman both revelling in and lost within this musical yin and yang, as tracks like "(For a While) I Couldn't Play My Guitar Like a Man" and "There is a Form" waffle between sincerity and absurdity while never fully committing itself to either.
For teenaged lo-fi diddler Aaron Freeman, the rarefied state of “brown” was the ultimate achievement. Starting with 1986’s home-recorded The Crucial Squeegie Lip, Freeman and his best friend Mickey Melchiondo, recording as Gene and Dean Ween, aimed to create a sound (and life) experience that was extremely “fucked-up, in a good way,” as Melchiondo describes it. What #based is for Lil B—a good-natured raison d’etre doubling as a foggy aesthetic manifesto and rallying cry for fans—“brown” was for Ween.