Every once in awhile there comes an album that redefines all the other music you have ever heard: At Folsom Prison, OK Computer, Revolver, etc. For me, the Wrens' The Meadowlands--realeased on indie-label Absolutely Kosher--is one such album. It is a study of guitar interplay, lo-fi melody and dynamics.
In the late '90s, The Wrens found a home on Wind-up Records. They turned in their first album and their label head boasted he could get them a million-dollar deal, but he wanted the band to go back in the studio make some of their songs more radio friendly. The band declined and were dropped from the label. The label guy was so mad that he supposedly declared, "The next band to walk through our doors will become millionaires." The next band was Creed. Ouch. Meanwhile, the members of the Wrens got day jobs and lived together in a New Jersey house, making The Meadowlands in the evenings in their living room. It took them over half-a-decade to do it and the results are spectacular. The album builds with reflections on label mistreatment, lost love and age, and then explodes on track 11 with the song "Everyone Chooses Sides," a summation of the bands' feelings about not taking the lustrous record deal. It kicks off with guitar tones so overdriven you'll wonder if your stereo is broken. And when the chorus hits, you'll understand that The Wrens don't really care about the money. They care about their music.
The Meadowlands has a seductive combination of blissful melodies and crunchy indie guitar sounds. It's a master of form that really sounds like no other.