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WRENS (Buy CDs by this artist)
The Low EP EP7 (Dow Boy) 1993
Silver (Grass) 1994
Seacaucus (Grass) 1996
Abbott 1135 EP (No Karma) 1998

The Wrens are probably the only band to ask the musical question "Where's my fresh diner daisy?" The New Jersey foursome stacks up 25 songs on Silver, a most ambitious debut album. Frenetic guitar stylings in classic post-punk slapdash mode underpin most of the tracks; bassist Kevin Whelan, guitarists Greg Whelan and Charles Bissell and drummer Jerry MacDonnell take turns singing lead; the predominantly strained, nasal vocals render a lot of the lyrics indiscernible but lend a heartfelt charm. At times loopy, the Wrens' breakneck approach here is most effective on "Adenoi." Who says Hebrew prayers can't rock?

Named for the quartet's home base, Secaucus is a streamlined progression from the first full-length. The album displays the Wrens' newly impressive range, from the racing shamble of the opening "Yellow Number Three" and the glammy, vamping "Built in Girls" to "I'll Mind You," which is an ambient, spacey instrumental. Vocal sheen of an almost Beach Boys proportion is achieved on the ballads "Won't Get Too Far" and "Jane Fakes a Hug," the spareness of which reveals what sounds like someone making cappuccino noisily in the background. Unbridled pop fortitude is in full effect on "Surprise, Honeycomb" and the tick-tock pace of "Hats Off to Marriage, Baby." The musical-chairs vocals make the Wrens' output resemble the work of several different bands at once, but a group with this much quirky verve shouldn't limit itself.

[Robin Eisgrau]