Sunday, January 11, 2004


The Wrens
The Meadowlands
(Absolutely Kosher)

You’re sitting there in your office, staring at the computer monitor. Watching the clock on the wall with it’s incessantly ticking second arm reminding you that the day is so much longer than just mere minutes and hours. The fluorescent lights with their yellowish glowing hue irritate your eyes beyond a degree of frustration. You want nothing more than to be free, realizing all the hopes and dreams of your youth. Once you thought about being an artist, a photographer. You were sure you had the talent—everyone told you that you did--but were too bogged down by the practicality of your surroundings; rent, rent, some leftover money going to food and rent. So now you wake up and, yes, it’s true—you do have a decent bank account. You can say things like, no, I’ve got this round. But so what? An overflowing ATM machine can’t account for gratification. Being a musician would have been cooler. You know it. Getting up on stage, whether it’s a small crowd or large a one, would have been a thrill and a half. Ignoring the strobe lights, looking into the crowd with difficulty to see a random person way in the back mouthing the words along with you. Your words. The ones you wrote.

Every day you walk into work and you think those very same thoughts. Go through the very same experiences as if your employer was the Twilight Zone and you were its Employee of the Never-Ending Month.

Again, the next day, you push the button to your floor and painfully make small talk with that guy who sits a few cubicles away from you. It’s hard this early in the morning. You have not had your coffee yet and no, you haven’t really noticed the weather. You go to your desk again and wonder if it is indeed an ergonomic chair, then why did your back always hurt at the end of every day?

Then one day, you wake up and you call in sick. You’re feeling fine--you just don’t want to go in today. You peruse around the house in your pajamas, wasting time, looking at things you’ve never really paid much attention to. Eventually after moments of hesitation, you pick up your guitar. Strumming away, you hear a chord you really like, so you play it again. Words then flow into your head…about a girl…about frustration…something about living in New Jersey and how things don’t ever change. Frantically, you look for a pen and paper. You need to write this all down now before the moment is gone and you return to your life as a corporate lackey (instead of one with a creative idea). You find a Post-it note (good enough), make some frantic illegible scribbles, and you are holding the basis of a new song. This is an epiphany you haven’t experienced in quite some time—hell, it must have been at least three years since you tried to do this.

And at that very moment, you feel inspired and refreshed. You forget the outside world, the morning commute, that security guard in the lobby--his name is "Bobby?". Going to your cube, making painful small talk. The fluorescent lights and the computer monitor that is even sick of looking at you. Right now, you are so alive and so content that everything else goes away, fades into the subconscious distance. For this exact moment, you are becoming so much closer to the dreams of your youth. For this exact second, you imagine that person in the crowd—way in the back--mouthing the exact words that you have just written down.

This is what the Wrens’ Meadowlands sounds like.

*(Incidentally, the Wrens are all gentlemen in their 30’s with respective day jobs in sterile offices. They have gone through a great deal of drama to get their music out (read the New York Times article on them for the perfect summary) but nevertheless, they are recording music that critics everywhere hail as some of the most potent and vital stuff in the indie rock community. The fact that they are doing this all while staying firmly rooted in the “world of practicality” is inspirational to me and to all that know their story. This, and for the fact that it is a rocking, memorable album, is why the Meadowlands is my pick for best album of 2003


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