Wrens Watch, Nov. 2, 2009

wrenswatchWe’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as David Ben-Gurion.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—41 weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell 38 weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pagesThirty-three weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Thirty-two weeks ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who 31 weeks ago apologized (profanely) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for the April 6 Wrens Watch. After not delivering, he said he’d come through the next week, but he didn’t. When Bissell ignored us again (Wrens Watch, April 20 and April 27), we speculated the Wrens were actually recording. Or maybe Bissell was just being a jerk. But then he told us 26 weeks ago he’d have a new Wrens mp3 for us. And guess what? The man finally came through. Download a demo of “Z,” which was written and performed by Kevin. We emailed Bissell numerous times to thank him for “Z” and ask him how the new record is progressing, but like we told you 24 weeks ago, he was unresponsive. He did email us a photo for 23 weeks ago, though, so we had that going for us. Which was nice. Twenty-two weeks ago, we got an email from Bissell saying, “Headed to bed but might have something for you.” As reported 21 and 20 weeks ago, other than a strange email from him referencing Fat Albert, we hadn’t heard from him since. Nineteen weeks ago, we told you that Bissell, apparently on vacation, said he would have a new song for us “as soon as I get home on Saturday,” but he never came through. Bissell returned our emails 18 weeks ago, but he didn’t send any new Wrens music. He did, however, send a truly tasteless Michael Jackson joke, and since it was actually funny enough for us to tell it to others, we gave Bissell a pass. Seventeen weeks ago, Bissell—on vacation yet again—emailed to say, “Maybe I can actually send a song to you after I get home Sunday.” Then guess what? He emailed us his first new Wrens demo, and like we told you 16 weeks ago, it’s a really good song. Fifteen weeks ago, Bissell emailed us to say he recorded another new demo, but he’s keeping that one for himself. He also said, “Smellmineitsucks,” whatever that means. Though we emailed Bissell repeatedly 14 weeks ago, we didn’t even get so much as a “Smellmineitsucks.” Thirteen weeks ago, Bissell sent this missive: “We gonna see ballgame this summer? And I don’t mean a view of you working your pockets on a street corner.” (We think Bissell just might have a shot at a cameo in the next Judd Apatow movie, Unfunny People.) Anyway, Bissell was supposed to respond to us with his thoughts on the recent 20th anniversary of the first live show by the band that eventually came to be known as the Wrens, but he didn’t. Twelve weeks ago, we did get an email saying he didn’t have enough free time to “justify replying to explanatory spam from MAGNET,” so maybe Bissell is a (mildly) funny person after all. Eleven weeks ago10 weeks ago and nine weeks ago, we got nothing. Eight weeks ago, we did find out that the Wrens have shows at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., scheduled for December 3 and 4, but we didn’t learn this from Bissell. Seven weeks ago, Bissell emailed us a number of times, but he didn’t answer any Wrens-related questions. We did find out that he was scheduled to play a solo benefit show in Brooklyn on October 28 with They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf (they should have called it Nerd Aid), but again, we didn’t learn this from Bissell. Six weeks ago, when asked what was new with the Wrens, Bissell responded, “Nothing. No things. At all. No recording, no new songs, no get-togethers.” Five weeks ago, we learned that the first Maxwell’s show will feature a setlist voted on by fans via the Wrens website (we requested “Brand New Apartment”), while the second will be comprised of as many news songs the band can play. You get the feeling the first show will probably be much longer than the second one. Four weeks ago, Bissell emailed us to say the Wrens have added a third Maxwell’s show (December 4 at 7:30 p.m.), for which they’ll play The Meadowlands from start to finish. When we told him that Greg mentioned to us that the band has been working on 120 new songs, Bissell replied, “You know how it is, applying the uncertainty principle, both are true. Until you try to confirm either one. So yeah, remember, Kevin’s been demoing the last year or two for the first time? He’s now got more than 100 songs, some totally fleshed out, some just sketches, many really good. And he and Greg have been going over them a couple nights a week. So yeah, from one perspective, the record’s almost done. Nevertheless, we have not recorded a note, so the record is both well under way and yet not even begun.” Uh, that clears things up. Three weeks ago, all we found out was that the Wrens have a Washington, D.C., show scheduled for November 20 at the Black Cat. Two weeks ago, when we asked if there would be other shows that weekend, Bissell responded, “No, not this time. You know us. It’s like the Army Reserve: one weekend a month and just two weeks a year. Without the ‘two weeks a year’ part.” Last week, Bissell responded to our emails, but he said nothing of interest, other than he’d have some news soon. This week, Bissell emailed to say the Wrens would be selling a limited-edition CD-R at the Maxwell’s shows that includes “really old pre-Silver songs and at least one new one.” We asked for a copy but still haven’t heard back.