The Mollusk is the sixth studio album by American rock band Ween, released by Elektra Records on June 24, 1997. It is a multigenre concept album with a dark nautical theme, with most songs incorporating elements from psychedelia and sea shanties while also featuring a heavy progressive rock influence. A departure from their distinctive genre-hopping humorous style of rock (but not losing the humor entirely) The Mollusk has been heavily praised by critics and considered by many to be the band's magnum opus. Guitarist/vocalist Dean Ween has stated The Mollusk is his favorite Ween album: "I will say that the only record that I ever felt really confident about was The Mollusk. That's my favourite record we've ever done. I couldn't wait for that one to come out."
After recording 1994's Chocolate and Cheese, Gene and Dean Ween decided they wanted to return to their early method of recording albums at home. In 1995, the band relocated their recording equipment to a rented beach house on the shore of Holgate, New Jersey (Later jokingly billed as The Flood Zone). The band's recording equipment and some of the material were nearly lost when a water pipe burst in the house while the house was unoccupied, eventually prompting the band to record, mix and master in a host of other locations. At this point, the band also put the album on hold and made plans to record 1996's 12 Golden Country Greats in Nashville. After recording 12 Golden Country Greats in 1995 and releasing and touring behind the album, the band completed the remaining tracking of The Mollusk at various inland locations. The album was finished in 1996 and released on June 24, 1997. A promotional edition with slightly alternate mixes of three songs also exists.
It also notably began their transition from a duo to a more traditional band with the addition of drummer Claude Coleman, allowing Freeman and Melchiondo to experiment with a wider range of musical styles than they could with the drum machine used on previous releases, also for this record shifting towards a dark nautical theme. The nautical theme was largely inspired by the initial recording sessions being in a beach shore house in Holgate, New Jersey. Famous Pink Floyd artist Storm Thorgerson was brought in to provide the artwork for the album, something the members felt was "one of the better parts".
Though Ween's 1996 album 12 Golden Country Greats was their first record to feature a full-fledged band on each track, these songs were recorded with various Nashville session musicians and was viewed by the band as more of a spin-off album in the vein of The Beach Boys' Christmas Album than a true follow-up to Chocolate and Cheese. The Mollusk was the debut album for keyboardist Glenn McClelland and bassist Dave Dreiwitz, both officially joining shortly before the album’s release, the band finally evolved into the final five-man incarnation that continues to this day barring the occasional exception.
While many of the songs were written in the sessions for the album there were a few notable exceptions and omissions. Buckingham Green had been written back in 1992 and had appeared in live performances at that time along with the original Chocolate and Cheese demos. I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight is a re-working of a 1953 Christmas song, Are My Ears on Straight? recorded by then 10-year-old Gayla Peevey and billed as "outright stolen" in the liner notes. Cold Blows The Wind is a Chinese Traditional Folk song, re-worked with the band's own instrumental style. She Wanted to Leave (Reprise) features the main song of "She Wanted to Leave" before ending with an instrumental reprise of "I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight".
"Ocean Man", the thirteenth track in the album, appears during the end credits of 2004's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Melchiondo later recalls that the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, Steven Hillenburg, had contacted Ween, and told them that The Mollusk was a huge inspiration creatively. This would be Ween's second time working with SpongeBob.
While some contemporary critics at the time has given average acclaim it has been praised heavily by later critics and is cited as one of the band's finest works, examples being Pitchfork giving the record a 9.7/10 ("A good friend of mine has compared Ween to the Beatles and how the Beatles took all sorts of pop music and turned it on its ear. You kow, after listening to The Mollusk, it's not hard to imagine what kind of White Album these crazy motherfuckers from Pennsylvania could crank out one of these days.") and Allmusic giving it a 4.5/5 with 347 user ratings giving it a 5/5 (Similarly, the vulgar shanty "The Blarney Stone," the faux-Richard Thompson tragedy "She Wanted to Leave," and the sunny, Caribbean-flavored "Ocean Man" are terrific songs offering evidence that Ween are improving as songwriters and musicians with each record. Ironically, this array of silly jokes and musical parody is a richer and more diverse listen than most of its alternative rock contemporaries.).
In 2007, Ween would publish a series of demos entitled The Mollusk Sessions for free download, featuring demo versions of many songs from the album along with three previously unreleased songs. Flutes of The Chi would be re-recorded for White Pepper while Did You See Me? would be re-mixed and released on the band's b-sides album Shinola Vol. 1.
On 1 July 2017 at Les Schwab Ampitheater in Bend, Oregon, Ween performed The Mollusk in it's entirety for the first time to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary.
All songs written by Ween except where noted.
- 1. "I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight" - 1:56 (Mel Leven)
- 2. "The Mollusk" - 2:37
- 3. "Polka Dot Tail" - 3:20
- 4. "I'll Be Your Jonny on the Spot" - 2:01
- 5. "Mutilated Lips" - 3:49
- 6. "The Blarney Stone" - 3:14
- 7. "It's Gonna Be (Alright)" - 3:19
- 8. "The Golden Eel" - 4:04
- 9. "Cold Blows the Wind" - 4:28 (Chinese Trad.)
- 10. "Pink Eye (On My Leg)" - 3:13
- 11. "Waving My Dick in the Wind" - 2:12
- 12. "Buckingham Green" - 3:19
- 13. "Ocean Man" - 2:07
- 14. "She Wanted to Leave (Reprise)" - 4:26
- Dean Ween – guitar, vocals, engineering
- Gene Ween – guitar, vocals, engineering
- Dave Dreiwitz – bass
- Glenn McClelland – keyboards
- Mean Ween – bass
- Kirk Miller – sound effects
- Claude Coleman, Jr. – drums, perccusion, engineering
- Juan Garcia – assistant engineering
- Bill McNamera – assistant engineering
- Steve Nebesney – assistant engineering
- Mick Preston – assistant engineering
- Ralph Smith – assistant engineering
- Jim Woolsey – assistant engineering
- Andrew Weiss – production, engineering, mixing
- Peter Curzon – artwork
- Tom Nichols – photography
- Rupert Truman – photography
- Sam Brooks – cover design
- Finlay Cowan – cover design
- Storm Thorgerson – cover design
- Matt Kohut
- Jason Reddy
- Bill Fowler – guitar, bass