a gospel of The Wrens
by Helena Cohen
Few bands ever reach a level of creativity that can extinguish
the possibility of being easily defined, while influencing a
whole new generation of music. You know the type. Not
everybody buys their albums, but almost everyone who DOES buy
one feels inspired by them.
In the mid 90's, this band was The Wrens. Luckily, this New
Jersey quartet didn't go the way of the Velvet Underground or
Joy Division. The unfortunate thing is that the majority of
their catalog is still unavailable, leaving their fans anxious
for any and all new material.
The Meadowlands- SPECIAL EDITION. This U.K. reissue of The
Wrens' triumphant 2003 return hopes to set Europe on its side,
while giving those of us die-hard Wrenheads back here in the
states a little something to tide us over until the next
For those still unfamiliar with the band, The Meadowlands
finds a working-class indie band years after being passed
over, dicked over, surviving in an era before indie-rock was
oh so fashionable, but ultimately still standing. In fact, not
only are the Wrens still standing, but they are stronger than
ever. They are the rock and roll equivalent of Michael
Meyers. Just when
you think you've done them in, they come back for you with all
The Meadowlands is an album full of grit, melody and poetry,
with arrangements that are sparse and understated one moment
but rich to a point that would make Phil Spector weep the
next. It's subject matter is unromanticized heartache,
disappointment, and nostalgia, wrapped accessibly in
thoughtful lines like "Ten tons against me and you've
gone/ I put your favorite records on/ and sit around/ it spins
around/ and you're around again ".
The other end of the lyrical spectrum can be found in the song
"Everyone Choose Sides", where The Wrens offer us a
good lesson in artistic integrity. With all pretense left at
the door, guitarist Charles Bissell sings "worked these
sands/ I won't go back again/ quitter quitter one boy bitter -
rough luck/ man to man hand to hand fight 40"
But the tell-all attitude of The Wrens belongs to bassist
Kevin Whelan, who lends his voice to heavy-hitting anthems of
love lost, like the syncopated rocker "Hopeless" and
the sorrowful "Boys You Won't".
For the ultimate fanatic, the special edition of The
Meadowlands includes 2 serious rockers previously unreleased.
"Nervous And Not Me" tears through a groove so
in-your-face there is just no denying it's pure, raw
aggression, while the new-wave glory that is "Such A
Pretty Lie" stirs my innermost desire to dance.