From the opening notes of The Rentals’ Lost In Alphaville, I got a sense of pain, celebration, and catharsis. These are clearly pent-up noises that were waiting to break out since the band’s last effort, Resilience, which was primarily instrumental and “mood music” made to support the rebuilding of Japan after the tragic tsunami several years back. Their most recent release before that was 1999’s Seven More Minutes, and after such a scattered past as a group, it was time for The Rentals to reinvent themselves.
By “themselves” I mostly mean Matt Sharp. The frontman of this seemingly neglected project might be a recognizable name and face. He was the original bassist in Weezer, and while a split from another band isn’t usually the thing a musician wishes to talk about, it’s fitting in this scenario. Sharp was on Weezer’s first two (and best) albums, The Blue Album and Pinkerton. Listening to The Rentals it is clear where his mark was made on those classic ’90s records. Between the rhythms, simplistic arrangements, and solid drive, Sharp’s sound clearly helped shape the modern idea of power pop.
But enough history. Let’s talk about what makes Lost In Alphaville such a fun album.
First off, the personnel is kind of amazing. We’re talking Sharp, Lauren Chipman, and a current touring cast of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, Ryen Slegr of Ozma, and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. If you don’t already know Lucius and Ozma, definitely check them out. If you don’t know The Black Keys, please stop reading this article and find a way to kick yourself in the face. The Rentals will be playing at The Fonda on September 5th, and you will definitely want to be there.
Lost In Alphaville is full of unique tones and textures that add so much to this perfectly recorded pop-rock record. It is filled with Moog, distorted bass guitar, simple and driving drums, and harmonies that sit atop the album like perched angels. Picture the songwriting and fun of Weezer with the synthy shriek and vocal subtleties of Stars.
Album single “1000 Seasons” is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Simple and driving with soft melodies and plenty of noise to keep it off pop radio, the track has the sonic integrity that the listener needs to keep from feeling guilty while rocking out to some good pop music. The song ends with the lyric “It’s the story of 1000 seasons past,” a perfect bit of nostalgia for a band that has a nearly 20-year tenure but is just now releasing a third album.
Another standout on Lost In Alphaville is “A Song Of Remembering.” Again, with a touch of nostalgia and a bit of prophetic sadness, the lyrics of this song comment on our short stay on this planet and how moments are personal and should be both cherished and released. Sharp says, “I’ve written enough, enough for a while,” which could very well be a comment on his absence from music for such a long time. Chipman finishes each chorus with the depressingly true, “Everyone is passing through.” This track was released on an earlier project called Songs About Time, which was a collection of 365 pictures, 52 short films, and three mini-albums, but “A Song Of Remembering” was definitely worth putting on this latest release as well.
Two more notable songs on Lost In Alphaville are “Traces Of Our Tears” and “Thought Of Sound.” They are amongst the heavier and more driving songs on the record and clear examples of the rock roots within the band’s sound. While each track still has its noisier and softer tones, they both have a pretty straight rock feel.
Lost In Alphaville is a really fun album. It’s not perfect — cheesy lyrics can be found here and there, and some of the songs sound a little too similar — but the overall message and general diversity do shine through. It is an album that can be listened to while in a good mood or even when feeling a little lost. The title suggests an overly masculine society, with “Alphaville” being a metaphor for our country’s “man up” mentality, but the album has a distinct feminine presence, perhaps to soften the male-dominated musical ground.
I really like Lost In Alphaville, and if you are a fan of Weezer, The Rentals, Matt Sharp, noise rock, indie rock, etc., you’ll find something you like, too. Give it a listen and enjoy an album that is long overdue.
The Rentals Tour Dates
09/05 – Los Angeles, CA – Fonda Theatre
09/07 – Pomona, CA – Glass House
09/08 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s
09/25 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
09/26 – Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony
09/27 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
For more info: