After an extended hiatus following the 2003 release of Quebec, Ween eased back into active status in the summer of 2007 with the release of the Friends EP through their independent Chocodog Records. Friends acts as a tonic to whatever lingering bad vibes Quebec left behind -- it's hard to shake the despair of "If You Could Save Yourself You Could Save Us All" from the memory -- as it's a relentlessly bright, knowingly cheerful EP, particularly on its pulsating neon-disco title track, designed as an ironic soundtrack to a gay disco and containing just about every color in the ****** rainbow, to borrow their own words. It's not the only time Ween plays with homoerotica here, as the EP is bookended by "Slow Down Boy," a soulful slice of unrequited love that isn't quite a joke, no matter how much Gene savors the line "lay back and let him blow you away." Between those two songs are the cold, driving electro-rock of "I Got to Put the Hammer Down," one their best songs in years; the playful reggae epic "King Billy," lasting almost too long at five minutes; and "Light Me Up," a drug-dealing saga set to a bossa nova beat that recalls Joe Jackson as much as it recalls Marc Anthony. What these five songs have in common is that they're lighter on their feet than the Quebec material, and it reconnects Ween to the devilish humor of their best '90s work, along with the excellent songwriting that's always been their backbone. If they can keep this up for a full album, they'll have a fine comeback on their hands, but the Friends EP should be enjoyed on its own for its bright blast of song, especially since none of the tunes will be available on La Cucuracha (with the exception of "Friends," but that will be in an alternate mix). Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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