The Wrens: Hold onto Your Day Job

OK… so where did the summer go? Tomorrow is Labor Day but it seems like it was just Memorial Day.


 

With just a bit more luck the Wrens might be better known today then they are… but then how many other bands can we say the same thing about? The answer to that is most!

Formed in the late 1980’s the group consisted of guitarist/vocalist Charles Bissell, guitarist Greg Whelan, bassist/vocalist Kevin Whelan, and drummer Jerry MacDonnell.

For several years they performed using various names until 1993 when they released a 7” single as “The Low”, unaware that in Duluth, Minnesota, there already existed a slowcore group with that name.

Changing their name to the Wrens they submitted “The Low” single to Grass/Dutch East India, who, on the strength of it signed them to a contract. 

In 1994 Grass/Dutch East India released the the Wren’s debut full length, Silver 

which mixed the dream pop of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse with … quirky indie rock.

Their 1996 sophomore album, Secaucus, replaced Silver’s hazy dream pop with

 a direct but slightly slanted rock sound.

If you need a reference, it compares favorably to the music of Archers of Loaf.

Generally well received by the critics it appeared that the band had finally come into its own, but, for the fact, that late in the summer of 1995 Alan Melzter bought Grass/Dutch East India with every intention of moving the label from it’s indie roots towards a more “hit-oriented direction.”

Melzter did offer the Wrens a million-dollar contract with the proviso that they make their music “more radio-friendly,” but when the group balked the label dropped them.

Keeping their days jobs allowed the band to soldier on, recording and releasing their music whenever the opportunity to do so presented itself. What allowed the band to remain viable during this period was that all the band members, except MacDonnell, who moved out in 1996, lived in the same house, turning their dining room into a recording studio.

After four years of work the group’s third album, The Meadowlands, was released by by the band’s longtime friend Cory Brown on his Absolutely Kosher label.

A shambling, sprawling, shifting affair The Meadowlands, like 1996’s  Secaucus, trades in a classic indie rock sound… accessible, but not overtly experimental either.

The album’s first track, “The House That Guilt Built,” opens with the sound of crickets which is followed by the line

It’s been so long since you heard from me

That line along with

“Are you happy?/You got what you want/I’m over it now”

from the album’s second cut, “Happy,”  help to set The Meadowlands generally melancholic tone but the band saves its rock moments for the end of the album,

“Per Second Second,” is

an angular, Pixies-esque bit of punk

while the anthemic “Everyone Chooses Sides” closes out the album.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

 

Albums:

Silver ‎(CD) Grass Records 1994
Silver ‎(CDr) Not on label 1994  
Silver ‎(CD, Digital) Wind-Up 1997
Secaucus ‎(LP, CD) Grass Records UK 1996
Secaucus ‎(CD) Grass Records US 1996
Secaucus ‎(CD) Wind-up 1996
Secaucus ‎(CD, Promo) Grass Records 1996
Secaucus ‎(CDr) Not On Label
Overnight Success (Cass) Not On Label 1998
The Meadowlands ‎(CD) Absolutely Kosher Records US 2003
The Meadowlands ‎(CD, Ltd) Absolutely Kosher Records US 2003
The Meadowlands ‎(2xLP) BB*ISLAND, Absolutely Kosher Records Germany 2006
The Meadowlands ‎(CD) Lo-Max Records UK 2006

Singles & EPs:

The Low 7″ (7″) Dow Boy Records 1993
Napiers (7″) Grass Records 1994 
‎Life Stories From The Union‎ (7″) Sonic Bubblegum 1995 
Rest Your Head ‎(7″, CD Single) Grass Records UK 1996
Abbott 135 ‎(CD EP) Ten23 Records 1997
Abbott 1135 ‎(CDr EP) Not On Label
Wrens, The / Park Ave. – Split Single‎ (7″ Single) Saddle Creek 1997
Wrens, The And Five Mod Four, The – Split CD‎ (CD EP, Digital) Contraphonic 2005

 

Appearances:

Albums:

“Miss Me” You’ll Never Eat Fast Food Again‎ (CD) Drive-Thru Records 1999
“Boys You Won’t Remember” Mitzvoth‎ (CDr) Absolutely Kosher Records 2002 
“Hopeless” No Tsuris‎ (CDr) Absolutely Kosher Records 2005  
“Hopeless” Chosen‎ (CDr) Absolutely Kosher Records 2005
“Faster Gun” Pop, Shmop‎ (CDr) Absolutely Kosher Records 2005 
“Nightswimming” Drive XV – A Tribute To Automatic For The People‎ (21xFile MP3) Stereogum 2007 
“Per Second Second” I Used To Be Goth‎ (CDr) Absolutely Kosher Records 2010

Singles & EPs:

“Stands For Love V.3 Or 4 (Faster Gun Demo)” Ladies And Gentlemen Issue 1‎ (12″) Lagmag  2003 

Compilations:

 

“Ruth” Brutal Bunch! Volume 1‎ (CD) Metal Hammer (UK) 1995 
“Napiers” 2001: A Grass Odyssey – Volume 2‎ (CD) Grass Records 1995
“Rest Your Head” Score Some Grass (CD) Grass Records 1996
“Let’s Pretend” Germs (Tribute) – A Small Circle Of Friends (CD, LP) Grass Records 1996
“Let’s Pretend” Germs (Tribute) – A Small Circle Of Friends ‎(CD) Gasatanka Records 1996
“Let’s Pretend” Germs (Tribute) – A Small Circle Of Friends ‎(CD, LP) Dragnet Records 1996
“Let’s Pretend” Germs (Tribute) – A Small Circle Of Friends ‎(LP, Blue) Grass Records, Gasatanka Records 1996
“Our Brightest New Year” K 01‎ (7″ EP) k la bunde records 1996 
“I’ve Made Enough Friends” Grass Of ’96‎ (CD) Grass Records 1996 
“The Seventh Stranger” The Duran Duran Tribute Album (CD, LP) Mojo Records 1997
“Everyone Chooses Sides” Magnet New Music Sampler Volume 32‎ (CD) Magnet Magazine 2004
“Hopeless” Now Hear This! 33‎ (CD) Word Magazine 2005
“Boys, You Won’t” Sounds – Now!‎ (CD) Musikexpress 2005
“This Boy Is Exhausted” SPEX CD #58‎ (CD) Spex Magazine 2005
“Happy” Jeffrey Hyman Was A Ramone‎ (CDr) Absolutely Kosher Records 2006  
“They’ll Need A Crane” Hello Radio: The Songs Of They Might Be Giants‎ (CD) Bar/None Records, MM3 Records 2006
“She Sends Kisses” Sweet Fifteen – Rough Trade Publishing 1991 To 2006 (2xCD) Rough Trade 2006
“Faster Gun” Rough Cuts 7 (Music For Films)‎ (CD) Rough Trade Publishing 2007
“Bouys, You Won’t” (Acoustic Live On KEXP) Knights In Shabbat Service (An Absolutely Kosher Sampler) (CDr) Absolutely  Kosher Records 2007 
“Sleep” Rock The Net‎ (CD) Thirsty Ear  2008  
“Everyone Choose Sides” Great‎ (CDr) Misra, Absolutely Kosher Records 2008
“Stop (Start) Twenty Seven” Radio Brian Volume 2‎ (Cass) Brian Records 2011
  


Secaucus (1996)

Playing Time: 53:53

the wrens-secaucus 

 

1. Yellow Number Three (1:04)
2. Built In Girls (3:00)
3. Surprise, Honeycomb (3:58)
4. Rest Your Head (3:24)
5. Won’t Get Too Far (3:02)
6. Joneses Rule Of Sport (3:46)
7. Dance The Midwest (2:20)
8. Still Complaining (2:43)
9. Hats Off To Marriage, Baby (2:37
10. Jane Fakes A Hug (5:05)
11. Counted On Sweetness (2:54)
12. I’ve Made Enough Friends (2:48)
13. Luxury (2:35)
14. Indie 500 (3:08)
15. Safe And Comfortable (3:27)
16. Destruction/Drawn (1:28)
17. I Married Sonja (2:43)
18. I’ll Mind You (1:25)
19. It’s Not Getting Any Good (2:26)

 

 Secaucus (Part 1) (Part 2)

 

The Meadowlands (2005)

Playing Time: 56:08

 

the wrens-the meadowlands

 

1. The House That Guilt Built (1:22)
2. Happy (5:33)
3. She Sends Kisses (5:57)
4. This Boy Is Exhausted (4:17)
5. Hopeless (5:08)
6. Faster Gun (3:50)
7. Thirteen Grand (4:09)
8. Boys, You Won’t (4:29)
9. Ex-Girl Collection (4:39)
10. Per Second Second (3:38)
11. Everyone Chooses Sides (4:39)
12. 13 Months In 6 Minutes (6:50)
13. This Is Not What You Had Planned (1:37)

The Meadowlands (Part 1) (Part 2)

 

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