Hmmm, do I even care anymore? Should I even make mention of how people around me seem completely indifferent about racial and virus issues? If someone doesn’t show that indifference, then it’s all about conspiracy and government lies. Honestly though, I’m tired of the arguments and back and forth attempting to have others see my point of view when they’re unwilling to have dialogues about issues that are important. The old adage of taking a horse to water and not being able to force it to drink may be true after all.
Summertime is in full effect although it’s been canceled for 2020. What’s normally been a busy season for releases there’s been a significant slowdown. Of course, the pandemic outbreak takes precedence over it but protests and cultural changes have factored into it as well. No one needs to question what my thoughts are because I’ve made it public on my personal stance on equality for all.
The moment someone releases an album after an extended hiatus, hesitation usually mounts with each passing day before listening. Thoughts bounce around as to whether or not an artist will be able to capture the magic of previous releases or fail with ubiquitous silence.
This is where we’re left, with Q36 (self-release), the new album by The Rentals, the brainchild of Matt Sharp. I find it necessary to point out specifics though; Sharp was the original bassist for Weezer and released the debt album Return Of The Rentals (1995). He continued with Weezer for 2 albums before stepping away to focus on himself and his own music. Sharp is the only consistent member and has released two other albums under the moniker, the last being Lost In Alphaville (2014). Now 6 years later, the new album simply defies categorization and this go around, The Rentals take no shortcuts or leave any stone unturned. 16 tracks of unencumbered music, with the assist of talented guests like Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Ronnie Vannucci (The Killers), and Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips).
The opening “Shake Your Diamonds” rallies around overdriven guitars without eschewing melody and structure around some psychedelia and experimentation. I’m pressed here to make comparisons but in an attempt to avoid any, I’ll simply chalk it up to Fridmann’s contribution, as well as Zinner’s heady sculptures he pulls from noisy guitars. Throughout the album, the musicians on the album coalesce like I haven’t seen or heard in ages. This is experience but it’s also Sharp’s clever songwriting. As The Rentals build through “Nowhere Girl,” there’s no lack of creativity here as guitars caterwaul through space and time, electronic noodling is captured throughout it, with harmonies in the backdrop as Sharp’s voice is cuts with precision. The album isn’t about the over-indulgence of instruments though. There’s a varied approach to Rentals songs here.
“Above This Broke World” begins sparsely building around Sharp’s vocals and harmonies, as instruments are filtered in simply without being simplistic. The band holds onto a sweet melody that doesn’t need much and allows the song to take on a life of its own. “9th Configuration” revolves around an acoustic guitar and piano as it slowly crescendos with Sharp’s vocals standing front stage. The backing vocal harmonies capture a beauty we haven’t heard in some time, as the song psychedelically drifts into an open stratosphere. But the power of The Rentals cannot be contained and silenced. The circulating space themed album comes back to songs like the multi-faceted “Forgotten Astronaut,” which plays with dynamics, melody, harmony, and sound in general. There is no moment in the song that is unforgiving, allowing a barrage of sound to attack senses in the most wondrous of ways.
There’s never a lulling moment on Q36 that will detract from enjoyment. The noisy “Breaking and Breaking and Breaking” is non-stop movement filled with distorted guitars while “Teen Beat Cosmonaut” is a welcomed self-indulgent, tame freakfest that’s catchy AF and enjoyable. “Spaceships” follows suit with enough of the electronic noodling but it never distracts from the harmonies and melody Sharp captures in his vocals. His mastery of it is clear as he reaches another echelon of grandmaster status.
There great thing about The Rentals’ Q36 is we can all hear Matt Sharp being allowed to be who he is. There’s no lingering of past ghosts haunting his abilities. There shouldn’t remain any footnotes reading “former bassist of…” because the 16 tracks compiled here will remain as some of the greatest songs ever written.