July 7, 2020 The Rentals – Q36 (Album Review)
The Rentals was formed by Matt Sharp 25 years ago, in Los Angeles, California, United States, after the success of the first album of Weezer, for which he was the bass player. In the same year, Sharp and his then new band release their debut record, titled Return of The Rentals, which spawned a number of commercial hits such as “Friends of P.,” “The Love I’m Searching For,” “Waiting,” and “Please Let That Be You.” Two albums more followed, 1999’s Seven More Minutes and 2014’s Lost in Alphaville. Now, after six years of hiatus to engage in various other musical projects, Sharp resurrects again The Rentals for its fourth offering.
Independently released on July 7th, The Rentals’ new double LP with 16 songs, is titled Q36. Currently consisting of Sharp on bass/vocals, Nick Zinner of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs on guitar, and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. of The Killers on drums, it all begins with the mid-tempo “Shake Your Diamonds,” which will immediately transcend you back to the glorious heyday of Alternative Rock in the 1990s. This is then followed by the melodic pulses and telegraphic beat of “Nowhere Girl.” The ensuing, acoustic-oriented “9th Configuration” remains in the same space continuum, exuding traces of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” An album highlight, “Teen Beat Cosmonaut,” will fit well on a soundtrack to a trip to Mars—spacey, fuzzy, grand, catchy, and celebratory.
The band then launches into the soft and slow, undulating waves of isolation of “Above this Broken World,” featuring a backup choir, which Sharp calls ‘The Gentle Assassins.’ “Forgotten Astronaut” then swings and sways in the same subtle sonic pendulum of space-themed balladry. Still in the same metronomic and stylistic predisposition, “Conspiracy” delves into Synthpop realms; it will fit well onto a playlist that includes The Other Two’s “The River,” Owl City’s “Fireflies,” and The Postal Service’s “We Will Become Silhouettes.”
“Breaking and Breaking and Breaking” and “Great Big Blue” then boost the adrenaline a bit, returning the listener to Weezer territories (“My Name Is Jonas”)—slightly grungy and sweetly abrasive. “Information (And the Island in the Sky)” then swiftly slows down the mood once again—contemplative with its starry-eyed soulfulness. Aptly trippy, the album’s lead single—“Spaceships”—then follows next, reminding the listener of The Rentals’ fascination for Moog-synthesizer sounds.
After the short, in-between-track interlude “Goodbye, Steve,” The Rentals then delivers the ominous, quite dark lyrical theme of “Invasion Night.” The calm after this portent, “Another World” then relaxes the listener and makes him turn his gaze to the sparkling specks of light in the night’s skies. The second-to-the-last track, “Machine Love” then shakes again the ship, as if ready to send the listener finally to an interplanetary adventure. Finally, Q36 wraps up its aural flight with the playful, tuneful, and carnivalesque call to juvenile attention, the nicely titled “Elon Musk Is Making Me Sad.”
A very long time has passed since the emergence of The Rentals, as well as the popularity of the entire Alternative Rock. Thanks to artists like Sharp, whose faithfulness to the genre continues, this kind of music is kept afloat amidst the cropping up of new styles and arrival of aspiring new bands. Q36 is a proof that The Rentals still has the distinct creativity along with youthfulness that Sharp and comrades carried out in their humble beginnings. Almost a concept album, it also reinforced the band’s trademark sound without sacrificing Sharp’s intention to make his lyrics relevant to the world’s current position in space exploration. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Q36, 4 out of 5 stars.