Photo by Brantley Gutierrez
Pop rock hit a high in 1994 with Weezer’s self-titled debut (a.k.a. The Blue Album). Coming just a few months after Kurt Cobain’s death, the record was a blast of (blue) color, wrapping classic pop melodies inside distorted bursts that pointed towards Kiss and Van Halen as much as Cheap Trick and the Cars. While frontman Rivers Cuomo’s nerdy charm was an easy sell, as a teenager I remember being drawn towards bassist Matt Sharp’s Beach Boys-like falsetto and melodic playing, which drove songs like the epic closer “Only In Dreams.”
Soon after the release of Weezer, Sharp started up his own band, the Rentals. Their 1994 debut, The Return Of The Rentals, formed a nice complement to the Blue Album, doubling down on the sugary sweet melodies while also adding synthesizer squiggles. Sharp left Weezer in 1998 and focused on the Rentals, whose follow-up Seven More Minutes included guests like Damon Albarn of Blur and a young Maya Rudolph, only adding to the should-have-been-famous mythology surrounding the Rentals.
But Sharp retreated from music somewhat, playing the occasional solo acoustic show while hunkering down in Tennessee. In 2006, he reformed the Rentals for an anniversary tour and started recording one-off projects under the old name again, like the 2009 collection of Songs About Time. On August 26, though, the Rentals make their proper return with Lost In Alphaville, their first new album in fifteen years. True to the name, Sharp has always used the Rentals as a way of collaborating with musicians he admires, and Alphaville features the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney on drums and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius on vocals. The record is a blast-from-the-past, picking up right where Sharp left off. The chugging guitars and big beats of “Thought Of Sound” sound familiar, but there’s a newfound maturity, born from years being both in and out of the spotlight.