The Wrens' "Authorized Biography (of Sorts)," accessible at www.wrens.com
, tells the kind of music-biz story that's hilarious to anyone who didn't live through it. New Jersey-based comrades Greg and Kevin Whelan, Charles Bissell and Jerry MacDonnell enjoyed recording for tiny Grass Records until the label was purchased by Alan Meltzer, whom the players describe as an "insane, grudge-bearing millionaire and Chinese-food aficionado." Arguments, hurt feelings and litigation followed, as did the inexplicable success of Creed, a group Meltzer championed after the Wrens spurned him. This turn of events (and plenty of equally ludicrous others) contributed to the seven-year gap that separated the release of the band's second album, 1996's Secaucus
, from its third, 2003's The Meadowlands
. Fortunately, the latter, issued on the smallish Absolutely Kosher imprint, turns out to be a catchy, emotionally rich effort filled with appropriately curious contradictions. For example, "Happy" is lyrically glum, while the ringing melody of "Hopeless" will fill even the most jaded listener with optimism. There's no telling if their rotten times are finally over, but the Wrens, set to play alongside Voices Underwater and Tintin, are once again earning the acclaim they've long deserved. And that's the rest of the story.