Wrens Watch, Sept. 21, 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 Rusty Goffe.) 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—35 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 32 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 pages. Twenty-seven 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. Twenty-six 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 25 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 20 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 18 weeks ago, he was unresponsive. He did email us a photo for 17 weeks ago, though, so we had that going for us. Which was nice. Sixteen weeks ago, we got an email from Bissell saying, “Headed to bed but might have something for you.” As reported 15 and 14 weeks ago, other than a strange email from him referencing Fat Albert, we hadn’t heard from him since. Thirteen 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 12 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. Eleven 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 10 weeks ago, it’s a really good song. Nine 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 eight weeks ago, we didn’t even get so much as a “Smellmineitsucks.” Seven 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. Six 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. Five weeks agofour weeks ago and three weeks ago, we got nothing. Two 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. Last week, Bissell emailed us a number of times, but he didn’t answer any Wrens-related questions. We did find out that he is playing a solo benefit show in Brooklyn on October 28 with They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf (they should call it Nerd Aid), but again, we didn’t learn this from Bissell. This week, when asked what was new with the Wrens, Bissell responded, “Nothing. No things. At all. No recording, no new songs, no get-togethers.” So there you have it.

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4 Comments

  1. Justin Timberwolf
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Who cares? Is this magazine ever going to come out again in print? If so, will it contain relevant information about any bands that anyone under the age of 40 will care about? The content here seems to be sliding backwards into misty-eyed Gen X nostalgia, but I did purchase a subscription and can’t remember when the Nick Cave issue (see what I mean about the nostalgia) came out but am pretty sure it was a long, long time ago.

  2. Posted September 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to be honest. I’m a Wrens fan, from the band’s home base of Teaneck, NJ, actually, but this column has gone from interesting and funny to mildly informatively to, well, stalkerish. The fact that you’re getting such terse responses from Charles would indicate if he was ever in on the joke, he’s certainly not having it any more? Are you seriously going to keep this up until the next Wrens release? For the benefit of whom?

  3. Posted September 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Gotta agree with Gabe…Seemed like a funny idea at first, and Charles Bissell initially played along amusingly…but really, now this is just boring.

    Also: yeah, why’d I pay for a print subscription anyway? Are you holding the issue until the new Wrens CD comes out? Maybe we should have “Magnet Watch” – in which folks e-mail your publisher every week asking about progress on the new issue…

  4. The Dude
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Funny, I was beginning to think I was the only one that noticed that a new issue hadn’t come out in effing forever. I actually began wondering this about three or four months ago and took the trouble to locate the Nick Cave issue. Know what it says on it?? “WINTER”. Yeah, I know. But I guess since it snowed somewhere in Colorado yesterday, that makes it okay that it’s the latest issue available – it’s already winter again! Kind of sad. Although if you will notice, several of the Magnet staff writers are now penning work for other music magazines, so it’s good to know they are still getting paid to write about music from somebody. Incidentally, you might also notice that Magnet is offering a great new subscription deal for renewing a current subscription — 16 more issues for something like $12. How much confidence do you have in THAT deal??