6. Pure Guava (1992)
Even with 20 years' worth of hindsight, it's still shocking that Pure Guava came out on a major label. Its predecessor, The Pod, made perfect sense in context. Shimmy Disc, the NYC indie imprint behind that second official Ween LP, specialized in various forms of music-as-outsider-art; within a couple years of The Pod, it issued records by King Missile, GWAR, Daniel Johnston, Naked City, Ruins, Bongwater (a twisted pop outfit featuring label head Kramer), Ruins, and a bunch of other staunch underground types. But Pure Guava came out on Elektra, which had recently scored hits with everything from Natalie Cole's Unforgettable… With Love to Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut and Metallica's Black Album. This third Ween LP basically follows the Pod template: drum machine, speed-warped vocals, rampant stoner-ish mindfuckery. (The band recorded both albums at home — in a shack situated on a Bucks County, Pennsylvania farm, the dwelling that gave The Pod its name — before the Elektra deal, and they licensed it as-is to the label; when I interviewed Ween's then-manager, Dave Ayers, for the 33 1/3 book, he told me, "I think we got $200,000 for licensing Pure Guava, and that record cost them about $42 to make.") In other words, it makes Nevermind sound like Rumours in comparison.
Pure Guava isn't as sheerly depraved as The Pod, but it still contains plenty of insular horseplay: "The Goin' Gets Tough From The Getgo," where the pair impersonates a pair of effeminate MCs; "Hey Fat Boy (Asshole)," which finds Freeman threatening the title character in a nonspecific ethnic accent; "Touch My Tooter," a bluesy, bouncy slab of lewdness; and the self-explantatory apex of the band's self-dubbed "brown" aesthetic, "Poop Ship Destroyer." At the same time, the record found the duo's songwriting stealthily improving: The first two installments of the "Stallion" saga on The Pod played more like skits, but part three here is a melodically sophisticated outsider-pop mini opus. The same goes for the screechy yet irresistible MTV hit "Push Th' Little Daisies," Freeman's chilled-out soul ballad "Sarah" and the album's arguable highlight: "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)," a riff on Queen-ish pomp rock that would become a live-show favorite. Pure Guava's bedroom-fi production values give it a deceptive "Anyone could do that" quality, but the LP's high-level craftsmanship proves that Elektra's $200K acquisition was actually a total steal.