Because the bulk of their catalog has remained in print (at least digitally) for all these years I've been doing Wilfully Obscure, I've brought The Wrens up fairly infrequently, which is a bit unusual for a band I've had so sizable of an investment in. Words usually fail me in summing up their dizzying sonic panache, but that probably goes for anyone whoever attempted to describe the dense layers of multi-tracked harmonies and overloaded melodies that threaten to topple over virtually any song they commit to tape. The basis of their back catalog is comprised of three stunning albums: Silver (1994), Secaucus (1996) and The Meadowlands (2003). The first two arrived on the indie Grass Records (later Wind-Up) imprint, a label that was eventually sold to BMG. After the spellbinding Secaucus (and the outright migration of Grass Records itself), the New Jersey quartet went back to square one, and via DIY channels shopped a self-funded cassette, Overnight Success, around to prospective labels. Absolutely Kosher would finally give them a home in the early '00s, but as far as this post is concerned that's neither here nor there.
Thing is, even those who pride themselves on being hardcore Wrens aficionados are to be given a pass on this lost holy grail, if only because it slipped out when the Web was in it's infancy. In all honesty I didn't even catch wind of Overnight... until I was perusing the "indie" folder of a fellow MP3 trader on a file sharing platform in 2010, or thereabouts. A thread on the Wrens message board, dating back to 2005, provides the most useful dossier of information on this exceedingly limited release. What follows is a useful backgrounder and critique.
Talk about pleasant surprises. . . more than a year after issuing their
breakthrough Secaucus disc for Grass Records, and a good six months
since they officailly parted ways with that label in search of greener
pastures, The Wrens, still working on a major-label deal, have taken it
upon themselves to release Overnight Success, an absolutely incredible
batch of ten sonic-pop deconstructions that should serve not only to
bolster their label bargaining power, but to build on their (all too)
slowly growing reputation as one America's most intiriguing and
inventive new bands, as well. If you can imagine XTC's avant-pop
colliding with Pixies-esque tortured, blast-first guitar lines, capped
by Richard Hell's new wave vocal twitch, you'd have a vague idea where
the Wrens come from - but we're only talking ballpark here. The
recording quality of this self-made, basement production is murky -
nearly bootleg variety, but the songs are as stunning, provocative and
well-arranged as you're going to find.
What the above write-up doesn't mention is that Overnight Success was comprised of ten songs, of which I have only six, I'm happily offering here. Not as sonically sweeping as any of their proper albums, these half-dozen tunes are still about as intoxicating as anything you're likely to hear Wrens-wise. A major treat for those of you who've only been exposed to the official releases. If any of you have an original copy of the tape, or a complete digital version. And for any neophytes who've made it this deep into the text, you can sample album tracks on the Wrens site here as well as a 1995 single that I posted awhile back. BTW, a fourth Wrens album is tentatively slated for later this year.
From the Rack
Take Me or Leave Me
Don't Be Shy