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Sailing To 'Quebec'

WeenWeen spent most of the 1990s as one of the strangest bands on a major-label roster, recording a series of unclassifiable records for Elektra that kicked around in country rock, psychedelia and classic pop. But while the duo of Aaron "Gene Ween" Freeman and Mickey "Dean Ween" Melchiondo has achieved cult status across the world, its Elektra tenure came and went without a major commercial breakthrough.

Band and label mutually parted ways following the 2000 release of Ween's seventh studio album, "White Pepper." Life-long friends Freeman and Melchiondo then spent more than two years writing the material that would fill its new album, "Quebec." The group considered several label offers, including simply releasing the disc on its own Chocodog imprint, but ultimately opted to ink with Sancutary, which releases "Quebec" this week.

Working with longtime producer Andrew Weiss for the first time since 1997's nautical-themed "The Mollusk," the group pushed itself "to be more experimental," Melchiondo says. "The last record we did with a band, so we were a little bit more organized. On this one, it is just trying things out, because it's mostly Aaron and I playing all the instruments."

Although it blasts off with the speed-rock assault "It's Gonna Be a Long Night," the new set goes heavier on contemplative (and at times tender) moments than ever before. "I Don't Want It" and "Chocolate Town" are refreshingly straightforward and quite pretty, while "Among His Tribe" and "The Argus" echo the stately, Pink Floyd-ish moments of 1997's nautical-themed "The Mollusk." Still, there's plenty of traditional Ween weirdness, from the goofball voices and rinky-dink sound effects of "Happy Colored Marbles" and "So Many People in the Neighborhood," the country-tinged kiss-off "Fancy Pants" and the maddening "The F***ed Jam."

Ween plays Portland, Me., tonight (Aug. 4).