The Wrens’ Charles Bissell has finally released his first new original music since The Wrens’ 20-year-old The Meadowlands, a three-song single under his new moniker Car Colors. The A-side “Old Death” is a seven-minute, string-laden indie rock epic that doubles as the lead single from the upcoming Car Colors album, and Charles says that “‘Old Death’ is, like the rest of the album, sort of a sequel to The Meadowlands.” He also adds, “‘Old Death’ serves both as the album-in-miniature – literally, most of its six-or-so non-repeating sections sorta correspond to other songs on the album – and as a pretty good example of how&why the album as a whole was put together over 10 years of solo work.”
“Old Death” is a genuinely great song, and it comes backed with an alternate version of “And It’s All Guns and Arrows” (which will appear in different form on the album) and “I’ll Bear,” a song Charles demoed in “2010, 2012 or so” for the Wrens album that never happened.
Check out all three songs and the video for “Old Death,” and read Charles’ lengthy statement on the songs, below.
Statement from Charles Bissell
The time I’ve waited to say this has been…long. And this is the long version of that…
The new single, “Old Death” (b/w “And It’s All Guns & Arrows (alt. take)” and “I’ll Bear”), my first music in two decades, is live now, released, out today. You can buy or stream it here on Bandcamp. It’s also now findable on your favored streaming platform near you.
“Old Death” is, like the rest of the album, sort of a sequel to the meadowlands before it and like that one, is about time, how one chooses to spend it, what those choices cost. That means for me, the song (and album) is also about making the album itself. It’s about death, maybe obviously, but it’s really about my dumb life. And because so much of that life, over the last decade especially, lined up weirdly well to the Odyssey, it’s all sorta hung on Homer’s narrative framework (unlike say, “Ulysses”, in my case it’s all very non-fictional/auto-biographical).
However like Ulysses”, every song is written in a stream-of-consciousness mode. Or for me, really more of a stream-of-memories: that time this happened, that other-time-this-reminds-me-of happened etc. Hence, the parenthetical dating throughout the lyrics as those memories pop in&out.
So basically like, unlike, like and then unlike Ulysses” – ha.
“Old Death”, serves both as the album-in-miniature – literally, most of its six-or-so non-repeating sections sorta correspond to other songs on the album – and as a pretty good example of how&why the album as a whole was put together over 10 years of solo work. In one sense, that’s sorta just practical, work-like, even architectural – rooms are added, hallways extended, windows bricked over, additions torn down, entrances and exits opened, rooms painted, paint scraped away, re-painted…until it feels livable.
But in another, on this album I became sorta hell-bent on using form (& arrangement) to move through individual songs (& the album as a whole), up&down hills, more like how films unfold, as a way of contrasting how time feels like it moves (to me) – sometimes with things changing all at once in songs (school years end, jobs end, relationships start, children arrive) and sometimes slowly evolving one phase into another or simply overlapping, as on the album as a whole (youth folds into middle age, middle age gradually into old, music as a career dissolves into at-home parenting even as the parenting defffffinitely starts all-at-once – ha)
“And It’s All Guns & Arrows (alt. take)” is, as the name goes, an alternate take of one of the songs on the album. I only recorded the basics in 2021, finishing it this past summer, and is more how I’ve done it live/solo – slower & only the first half. “I’ll Bear” is a song I demo’d for this last wrens record (in 2010, 2012 or so) but put on the discard pile, resurrecting it last summer when a friend swung by to overdub drums. Which speaking of…
I’m joined here by Jeff Lipstein (original wrens drummer(!), Mercury Rev, Sandy Bell etc.), who played and recorded the drums on “Old Death” – fantastically. And on “I’ll Bear” by Bill Swartz (Nectarine, Ultraswiss etc.), drumming ditto-ly fantastically…on drums in our basement on eterna-loan from the exceedingly generous Scott Steinhardt.
The video, directed & edited by Kyle Garrett (at Seven Summits) and beautifully filmed by cinematographer Aaron Fagerstrom, is honestly, incredible – Kyle only wrote me a few weeks ago, we hit it off, and between him filming & editing on the West Coast and me filming myself (begrudgingly) here in Brooklyn, he whipped out the whole thing in like a week. It’s simply great. I’m very proud of it even as, and maybe because, I had not too much to do with it. Wait, I did the soundtrack for a video…! ha.
And you can bask in the halo of its glory here.
Lastly, a giant single-release-day thank-you to my infinitely patient and cool wife; our three youngsters; Cory for putting this out with me; Matt for making that possible at this nifty level; Jeff & Bill for the drumming (and Scott Steinhardt for the actual drums in our basement that Bill used); Kyle (and Aaron Fagerstrom) for the video; Alan Douches for the mastering; Josh Pfeffer for the art direction; and Amanda Pitts for running the press.
And thank you – truly – for listening.