So ads tell me that Scott Stapp of Creed (or ex- of Creed: I don’t know or care) is going to be performing in town in a week or so. Until I saw those ads, I hadn’t realized that I had been confusing him and his band with Travis Meeks and Days of the New. This distinction among egomaniacal leaders of incredibly crappy bands is probably the most useless piece of information I now know.
Anyway: Creed has a specially carved-out hellish little cell in the most pestilential regions of my heart, because they’re the band that became the golden apple in the eye of whatever their label was called…and thereby doomed the Wrens, formerly on that same label under its earlier incarnation as Grass Records, to several years wandering in the Jersey desert. (My knowledge of New Jersey geographical features is only marginally more keen than my knowledge of crap bands.) Actually, that’s not the real problem: the real problem is that this label also refuses to either rerelease the first few Wrens albums or sell rights to them, having impacted same up their Creed-relishing bungholes.
So here’s a track each from those first two, big-buck eBay-bait albums, Silver and Secaucus, along with a track from the apparently-still-going-to-eventually-be-reissued-with-bonus-tracks EP Abbott 1135 (not on that label). From Silver, here’s an early example of the Wrens’ mastery of texture, “Strange as Family.” While in the context of some of Silver‘s other tracks, which maybe owe a bit too much to bug-eyed Pixies influence, this track is somewhat restrained, it still contrasts those moments of aggression with some real delicacy like the closing piano bit (note Wrens’ typical discord, patent pending).
From Secaucus, here’s the heartbreaking “Won’t Get Too Far.” For me its despondency is enhanced by the guitar parts, which sound to me as if they were recorded several keys higher and correspondingly faster and then tape-slowed for that murky effect. Plus, you can actually understand the lyrics for once: Wrens tend to sing out the sides of their mouths, often sounding as if they’re chewing gum at the same time or something. Half the time, even with lyrics in front of me I can barely make them out. (See “Strange as Family” above: for a gold star, pick out the phrase “johns the greater”…or this entry’s titular phrase.)
“I Guess We’re Done” is one of the most famous Wrens songs, even if relatively underheard given Abbott 1135‘s scarcity, since it’s referenced in couple of other lyrics (notably “Boys, You Won’t”). Somewhere someone is probably writing a dissertation on the “conceptual continuity” (to borrow Zappa’s phrase) in Wrens songs – I’ll note only that the bridge mentioned in this song’s lyrics (“shots of Dad’s bridge still on the fridge”) is presumably the same bridge whose presence forms the central metaphor of “Won’t Get Too Far.” Some day I should sit down and figure out all the chords to this one (I’ll need a lot of paper) – in particular, the modulation from the opening into the first verse is a thing of wonder. Overall the song feels like a ’50s ballad turned sideways: phrases extend a little longer than you’d expect, wander through neighboring chords like those interesting shortcuts you might take that aren’t really shortcuts but are more interesting than the direct route…and then there’s that bridge (not the one on the fridge) which, aptly, sounds as if flown in from another song entirely until it, too, slithers through a serpentine modulation back to the main chord sequence. Plus…tubular bells!