In Praise Of Ween’s “Poop Ship Destroyer,” a/k/a The Penalty Song


Ween, the thinking man’s juvenile jam band, invade Central Park tonight for a performance that will last somewhere between two and nine hours. (Tickets are still available.) And while lately they’ve acquired some measure of critical legitimacy (their typically deranged and schizophrenic last full-length, La Cucaracha, was tremendously well-received, David Sanborn cameo and all), it is an older, far less critically legitimized song that best represents their musical innovation: “Poop Ship Destroyer,” a trudging, deliberately nauseating, Homeric-epic-length seafaring debacle that, it would seem, the band only plays if they either love a crowd or hate it. The Reward and/or Penalty Song. This, frankly, is a fantastic idea.

Declaring “Poop Ship Destroyer” the band’s “brownest” song, one fan goes on to note that “the Brothers Ween pull this out to alternately punish terrible crowds (by playing long-winded versions of it) and express their gratitude to rabid ones.” Unless you reside in the rabid-fan camp, woe betide you if you ever hear this song in person. And yet, the fact that it exists, that it’s an omnipresent possibility — a threat, really — adds a frisson of danger and unpredictability and, frankly, excitement to the concertgoing experience. You better behave, you better be into it, you better show the proper respect and enthusiasm (shout “Dr. Rock!” as loud as you can!) or your ass is setting sail.

This, frankly, is a practice more bands should adopt. Behave, or the Police will pull out “Mother.” For Pearl Jam, beware of “Stupid Mop.” Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle.” (You know it’s true.) Just as video games now often have multiple endings depending on the purity of your actions, so too should rock concerts. So go tonight and request the aforementioned “Dr. Rock,” or “Puerto Rican Power,” or “Exactly Where I’m At,” or the majestic “With My Own Bare Hands.” Get into it, or you know the consequences. Just be aware that you may get so into it that you actually want to hear “Poop Ship Destroyer,” which, well, there are support groups for that sort of thing.