The Rentals – Q36
Matt Sharp was the original bassist for Weezer. He played on their first two (and only spectacular) albums, the 1994 self-titled “Blue Album” and 1996’s Pinkerton (which at first glance was a misunderstood record, but later became recognized as a seminal masterpiece of sorts, influencing countless other bands). Between the first and second Weezer records, Sharp released (via Maverick Records) The Return of the Rentals, the debut album (there was no real “return”) of his own band/side-project, The Rentals. The record experienced moderate mainstream success – the single “Friends of P” had heavy rotation on MTV (ya’ know, back when they actually played music videos). There was a follow-up, Seven More Minutes, in 1999, but by that time the band’s popularity had waned and allegedly Maverick didn’t promote it properly due to a disagreement with Sharp over the album’s mixing. After a long hiatus, a third record, Lost in Alphaville was released by Polyvinyl in 2014. Now, six years later, Sharp has dropped a self-released full-length titled Q36.
There was once a “spaced themed” Weezer record called Songs From the Black Hole that was supposedly in the works. While that record never came to be, Q36 could be the closest thing. The long-running 16-track record is lyrically and musically space/science-fiction themed, and not to over-hype it, but it’s almost Bowie-like at times. Helping the spacey production along is frequent Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann as mixing engineer. The Rentals’ current lineup is basically that of a super-group. It’s Sharp on vocals and bass along with The Killers’ drummer Ronnie Vanucci and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist Nick Zinner. The band’s tight, laser-focused performances are perfect and vocal contributions from The Gentle Assassins Choir and School of Seven Bells’ Alejandra Deheza really put the album over the top.
Each of the 16 songs on Q36 is its own self-contained story, so while it stays a space themed concept record it doesn’t get into annoying rock opera territory. “Shake Your Diamonds” and “Nowhere Girl” start the album off right with just the right mix of grimy, distorted noise and catchy power-pop hooks. “Conspiracy” is really dirty, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll. Old-school Rentals fans will enjoy the strings in “Goodbye, Steve.” Elsewhere, some songs draw inspiration from real-life events – “Forgotten Astronaut” is about Apollo 11 and “Great Big Blue” is about the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. The album closes with a song titled “Elon Musk is Making Me Sad” (what a great song title!)
This is by far the most ambitious and strangest music that Matt Sharp has ever put out.