New Jersey's Prodigal Sons: 
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.
Enter 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 album. 

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 their strength.

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.
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