The Rentals

Lost in Alphaville

Polyvinyl

Aug 29, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Shockingly, The Rentals' first LP in 15 years may also be their best. Lost in Alphaville finds a happy medium between the heavy fuzz and Moog synths of the group's 1995 debut, Return of The Rentals, and 1999's over-stuffed and too-ambitious left-turn Seven More Minutes.

Number-one Rental (and former Weezer bassist) Matt Sharp has kept a low profile for the last decade and a half, releasing a solo EP 11 years ago, followed by a four-song Rentals EP seven years ago. One might expect some stumbles with such a gap between Rentals full-lengths, but there's an ease to much of the new material that was absent on previous Rentals records. Whereas on the group's debut Sharp seemed to be trying to carve out a space similar to Weezer but still distinctively his own, Seven More Minutes found him adrift, with too many ideas stuffed into too many songs and not enough hooks to merit all the filler.

Lost in Alphaville isn't afraid to stick to what Sharp has always done bestbig guitars and big hooksbut still has elements of Seven More Minutes' experimentation, particularly on tracks like on closer "The Future," a textured outro that's mostly male-female back-and-forth vocals, percussion, and stray synthesizers, rather than another song with big guitars (though those show up eventually, as you'd expect). Which isn't to say that there aren't plenty of big guitars on the albumopener "It's Time To Come Home" and "Thought of Sound" could've been leftovers from Return of The Rentalsbut the album as a whole is a better mix of Sharp's strengths than anything the band as released thus far.

Hints of that balance first surfaced on 2007's Last Little Life EP, on which the resurrected band returned to its distortion-fueled roots while also expanding the palette to include softer, more acoustic sounds and the return of joint male-female vocals, and are carried further here, such as on "Irrational Things," which builds from a slow burn with piano and violin to a classic Rentals power-pop sound. After nearly 20 years, the band knows what side its bread is buttered on and what its fans want.

Interestingly, the album's press notes are quick to bring up Sharp's exit from Weezer post-Pinkerton, even going to far as to slag his former band's trajectory since then. It's a low blow, but it also serves to illustrate one of the major takeaways from the album: Weezer aren't what they used to be, but 15 years later The Rentals are better than ever. (www.therentals.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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