Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Wrens 

The Meadowlands

Wednesday, Feb 25 2004
It doesn't get much catchier than the collage of infectious hooks the Wrens present on The Meadowlands. That's not to say there's anything facile about the New Jersey quartet's long-awaited follow-up to 1996's Secaucus. Rather, their latest pastes a keen understanding of major-key pop over an assortment of tempos and attractive guitar riffs, morphing from quiet airiness and soft-sung vocals to bold, distorted rock 'n' roll. The record sounds equally calculated and haphazard, its fragments of cleverly arranged ideas colliding and blooming with little regard for song structure; it's as if little cities of melody were built by intelligent architects with their own languages, and these cities grew and grew until they touched one another. The resulting nation of sound, albeit sometimes (intentionally?) ragged, is both intricate and stunning.

The record starts with "The House That Guilt Built," in which a lazy electric guitar strums quiet chords over a bed of crickets' chirping then quickly forays into the drone-y toms and elevating six-string noodles of "Happy." It's four minutes into the latter that the album really kicks in, with joyful power chords and hard-hit drums. This ends up being much of the Wrens' approach: stringing several songs together to achieve climax.

Behind all of The Meadowlands' catchy peaks and valleys is a recording that sounds timeless, which makes sense, considering it took over seven years for the Wrens to complete it (partly because of some nasty luck with their former label). Clearly these were years full of a variety of emotions that manifested themselves in a variety of songwriting approaches. Hence tunes that pay homage to everything from early emo ("She Sends Kisses") and the Rolling Stones ("This Is Not What You Had Planned") to '60s psychedelic pop ("This Boy Is Exhausted") and '90s alternative rock ("Faster Gun"). It's this diversity, and the balancing of clever melodies with a seeming lack of structure, that makes the record one of the most impressive American indie rock albums of the last few years.

About The Author

Abigail Clouseau


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"