Home > Bargain > The Wrens – The Meadowlands

The Wrens – The Meadowlands

Absolutely Kosher Records, 2003

At some point I read vaguely that someone somewhere liked the Wrens.  I don’t remember the context, whether the person gave a credible reason for liking them, or even if I got the band name right (maybe they meant the ren-tals .. oops).  The cover looked calming enough with its sepia tone of a weathered structure, so I knew this one was going to be a spin for a calm moment.  Since most of the music I had been listening to at the time was rather loud, I figured this would be a good addition for my current and likely future ‘peace and quiet, please’ movement.

Oh that heavy metal!!  Just kidding … the Wrens are as casual as one might imagine.  Well, at first at least.  After the sleepy and short beginning of “The House That Guilt Built”, “Happy” actually maintains a lengthy and sustained height of pop rock noise before changing its riffs halfway through.  Didn’t expect that!  Usually these low-key type of bands are content to just be soft, but the Wrens gave a nice pop surprise straight away.

Not too far into the record, it is suddenly apparent that the Wrens can really charge up a listener with their deceptively energizing music.  One of the best tunes on the record for me is “Hopeless” because it has all the appealing guitar work, harmonies, composition, and length that really resonated with me.  It’s also five minutes long and I didn’t even notice, which is a feat.  I also really like the pep and urgency that “Faster Gun” delivers.  Bissell’s vocals are muffled over the strength of the band, but the group still sounds great during the multiple choruses.  I found the poppier “Boys, You Won’t” to be really pretty on repeat listens, while the really engaging backing guitar riff on “Ex-Girl Collection” is an absolute stand out.  The song itself builds well amidst a gent’s tale of conquests and the expected emotional conflicts.

It turns out that there aren’t too many songs on this record that fit with my original thoughts on what these guys would sound like.  “She Sends Kisses” has Charles Bissell nearly whispering at the beginning only to pick up the volume at the inspired end.   On nearly the last song of the record, “13 Months in 6 Months” has got airy vocals, gently strumming guitars, and a plodding sense that the nearly seven minutes of song will never end.  If one dips into the lyrics, however, it makes up for the dreary tone with its rather sad description of a half-hearted attempt at a physical relationship, only to end with the excellent regretful line “I knew we’d never write … but this counts as calling three years out”.  Oof.

Despite the hiatus, the Wrens still have their website and MySpace available for listening and merchandise.  I particularly enjoyed reading their candid bio.

Reading a little further into this record online, I discovered that NME, Mojo, Pitchfork and many other music critics really liked this album when it was released.  They’re glowing over there at Amazon too.  Huh.  Well, it just goes to show that sometimes even well-received records find themselves astray in a dollar bin at some point.  The Wrens haven’t put out a new record since this one, so after seven years they’re either constructing the best record ever or they are done.  Looking at their website, I was pleasantly surprised to find it out it’s the former!  Well, we’ll see if it’s the best but at least they’re putting something out soon.

I have to agree with the critics on this one.  A great record to stumble upon, the riffs and consistent excellence that each song delivers forces me to bestow the Golden Dollar upon “The Meadowlands”.  They have my permission to put that acclaim on their promotional stickers for future re-issues of this record, yeah, that’s fine.  As a final word, the next time you’re flipping through the forgotten old dusties at a nearby music store, keep the hope alive that you might find something that will be the best record you will have heard in awhile.

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