Review: The Dean Ween Group – The Deaner Album (ATO)

the-deaner-albumImagine, if you will, Jared. Jared is a web developer and artisanal mead enthusiast who has retreated to a cabin in the woods with his acoustic guitar, a four-track and his emotions to record an album so exquisitely sensitive it makes Bon Iver sound like David Allen Coe.

Now imagine Dean Ween, 30-year rock road warrior and founding member of beloved cult band Ween, pulling up with a busload of legendary funk and punk players and banishing Jared to the outhouse with a tambourine and a bag of weed before transforming the cabin into a Fender-powered gearhead love shack to lay down a 14-track testament to the history, majesty and pure, face-melting beauty of the electric guitar.

Presenting – The Deaner Album.

Deaner, aka Mickey Melchiondo, didn’t pick up his guitar for a year following Ween’s breakup in 2012. He’s been riding a creative hot streak since 2013, though, recording his fifth album with acerbic punk-metal side project Moistboyz and forming The Dean Ween Group. With Ween on hiatus (they re-united early this year) and new songs taking form with DWG, Melchiondo decided to take the time and hammer out a solo record.

Recorded in a converted chicken coop on donated land near his hometown of New Hope, Pa., The Deaner Album showcases Melchiondo’s evolution from precocious teen string-mangler to world-class player. He spins his fluency in Hendrix/Hazel blues-based psychedelic pyro, punk head-bashing and wide-ranging rock guitar tradesmanship into songs that are both true to his influences and completely unique. It’s all tied together by tight songcraft and the best production you’re likely to experience from a home recording.

“Dickie Betts” is a soaring instrumental that condenses everything good about Southern rock into a 3.5-minute blast of honey-dipped guitar harmonies that will leave your speakers dripping with Skynyrd’s innards and smelling like Gregg Allman’s mustache.

“Exercise Man” drives up behind the sweaty, spandex-ensheathed middle-aged jerk holding up traffic on his bicycle in Your Town and lays on the horn with an uptempo country-fried middle finger to self-important fitness fanatics. It features the slide work and mutual disdain of Meat Puppets guitarist Curt Kirkwood. Deaner shot his first video in 16 years for this one, in which he takes his pedal-pusher on the road to annoy motorists while smoking darts and wearing moisture-wicking sports apparel.

Things get heavy for a couple of songs as Deaner pours the straightforward rocker “Bundle of Joy” off the keg and drops in a shot of whiskey with the caustic, doom metal-inflected “Charlie Brown.”

The light, thoughtful instrumental Les Paul tribute “Schwartze Pete” brings the mood up for a minute before Deaner’s id comes roaring back to do donuts on your lawn with the greasy metal of “I’ll Take and Break It.”

“Garry,” named for the late P-Funk guitarist Garry Shider, is the album’s trippiest track and showcases Melchiondo’s abilities as a composer better than anything else on the album.

“You Were There” sounds like something Joe Walsh would write if he was also Wings-era Paul McCartney.

“Bums” combines the small-town bringdown vibe of “Charlie Brown” with dirty riffing, a bass line that mashes a hairy sasquatch finger into your adrenal gland and punk veteran Chuck Treece (Bad Brains, Body Count) on drums.

“Gum” is something Dean Ween must’ve recorded while Mickey Melchiondo stepped out for a smoke. Recalling venerable freakouts like “Blackjack” and “I Play It Off Legit,” “Gum” is as much a tribute to Ween as the other musical salutes on the album.

“Nightcrawler” sounds like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins telling The Cramps a scary bedtime story.

“Mercedes Benz” is Deaner’s love letter to Prince, Parliament and the other funk performers that have informed his playing. Featuring P-Funk guitarist Michael Hampton, singer Carol Brooks and Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz, it’s a seven-minute party that’s so loose and fun it’s easy to overlook how well-made it is.

“Tammy” is a raw and brutal C&W murder ballad that’s been dipped in Skoal spit, rolled in honky tonk sawdust and run over by a monster truck.

The album closes on a mellow note with “Doo Doo Chasers,” another funk-inflected guitar instrumental.

With The Deaner Album, Melchiondo has taken home recording back from the Jareds and made the most fun guitar record in recent memory. Ween fans are going to love it anyway, but this one deserves the attention of anyone who wants more from an electric guitar album than John Mayer smarm or Yngwie Malmsteen puking a million notes all over the place.