Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Wrens - (the incomplete) Overnight Success demo (1997)

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



Rotinaj said...

Oh yes. The kind of release this place was made for ha.

I wonder if this post will have the power to catch the attention of whoever has a copy, so we can finally get our hands on the remainders.

spavid said...

And if not, what's here is still pretty damn good. Finger crossed.

The Kells said...

Thank you very, very much for this post, I can't wait. Huge Wrens fan, saw them twice on the Meadowlands tour. Great band, really nice guys too.

MKV said...

Yeah, everytime I think of hearing some Wrens that I've never heard before it puts a smile on me mug, I saved it for a road trip and would love to hear the 4 missing cuts. Player is catchy as heck, I like this band a great deal.

MKV said...

Yeah, everytime I think of hearing some Wrens that I've never heard before it puts a smile on me mug, I saved it for a road trip and would love to hear the 4 missing cuts. Player is catchy as heck, I like this band a great deal.

spavid said...

The link has been updated.

Maximum Jack said...

Hey thanks for this! Just found out about Overnight Success while checking out the Wren's discography over at Discogs. So just looking at the track listing they have, it looks to me that the first for tracks on Overnight Success were all featured on the Abbott 1135 EP. I just ripped my copy if you need it. "Big City Move On" has to be the same track as "Pretty OK", right? So with the six tracks you posted, this should be the full cassette-- assuming they didn't re-record the tracks from Abbott 1135. Anyway, cheers!

zdlrragefan said...

hey, can you re up the zip files please?

lazark said...

I second the request to re-up the files. Somehow, I *just* found out this existed.

zdlrragefan said...

the track songs missing.
Big City Move On
Its Alright
Fire, Fire
I Guess We're Done
From The Rack