Remember the Rentals?
Most people who remember the Rentals—and it’s probably a small group that remembers them at all—know the project as one of many alternative-era one-hit-wonders, putting its own spin on the mid-’90s rediscovery of old analog synths via a catchy MTV and Modern Rock radio hit called “Friends of P.” But that single came from an album that auteur Matt Sharp released in between the two masterpieces from the band he co-founded—Weezer’s self-titled “Blue Album” (1994) and the enduring Pinkerton (1996)—and he deserves much more consideration than a mere nostalgic footnote, even if the Rentals have hardly been prolific in the last two decades.
A strong second album Seven More Minutes (1999) followed the ironically titled debut Return of the Rentals (1995), and then… silence, until Sharp put a new version of the Rentals together in the mid-2000s and undertook an intriguing multi-media project called Songs About Time toward the end of the decade. The songs on the band’s new, long-awaited third album all come from that endeavor, re-recorded with a group including hard-hitting Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and enchanting backing vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig (filling the roles of that dog’s Rachel and Petra Haden in the old lineup).
The gloriously fat and glitchy drones of those Moogs still are part of the mix, but so are a wonderfully endearing and otherworldly future-past melancholy vibe (think Lost in Translation) and a bevy or memorable and infectious hooks that serve as reminders that Rivers Como wasn’t always the only pop genius in that other band. “Stardust,” “1000 Seasons,” “Thought of Sound,” “Seven Years…” heck, pretty much the whole album had me hooked from the first listen, though I’ll confess, it was a few weeks before I even started spining it (the disc came out on Aug. 26).
“Does anybody even remember the Rentals?” I wondered. “Does anybody care?” Well, I can tell you now that the answer to that second question is, “You certainly should.”
The Rentals, Lost in Alphaville (Polyvinyl)
Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.