The Rentals | Last Little Life EP (Boompa)

cd_rentalsThe band used to quote Gary Numan when referencing relationships; now they sing about listening to Nat King Cole. The irreverence is there, but the attitude isn't.






The Rentals are back. This time, they're older and more mature. No longer are they Weezer's synthy sibling or Blur's American cousin. They've slowed down and softened up, but Last Little Life proves they still have whatever it was that made their first two albums so much fun.

Started in the mid-'90s by Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, The Rentals were part of the Moog-rediscovery movement. After two albums and Sharp's departure from Weezer, the band faded away. The members moved on to other projects. Most notably, vocalist Petra Haden continued her solo career, keyboardist Maya Rudolph joined the Saturday Night Live cast, and Sharp went solo and played keyboard on Tegan and Sara's album So Jealous.

With Last Little Life, The Rentals return with new songs about getting old. The EP starts off with "Last Romantic Day." The song's string intro rips off a Mark Mothersbaugh soundtrack so badly, it throws the entire project into question. Eventually, though, the track starts in earnest, with drums, strummy acoustic guitar and retro synth leads. Sharp's vocals have lost some edge; they're more whispered and overpowered by the female backups, but the lack of the group's signature fuzz sound helps the lyrics stand out in the mix.

The second track, "Little Bit of You in Everything," keeps up the fairly slow pace. While the first song is about getting older, this one is about remembering. There's definitely a theme going on, and the band's new sound is consistent enough to keep things interesting so far.

Track three, "Life Without a Brain," provides a slight return to the classic bass-heavy fuzz of the group's first album. This is possibly the catchiest song on the disc and – in addition to the fuzz – it features several other elements from the debut. From violin to synth breaks, it almost feels like 1995 again.

To close the EP, The Rentals do go back to 1995 and offer a new rendition of the old track "Sweetness and Tenderness." The rerecording takes away some of the cheesiness of the original, but in doing so, loses some of the sentiment.

If there is an easy comparison to The Rentals' old days and this new EP, it's in the lyrics to the second and fourth songs on this EP. The band used to quote Gary Numan when referencing relationships, now they sing about listening to Nat King Cole. The irreverence is there, but the attitude isn't.

For Matt Sharp, comparisons to Weezer are inevitable. As far as "Last Little Life" goes, it has its bland moments, but it's still more exciting than the Green album. And, at 17 minutes, it's almost as long and provides just as many catchy melodies. B+ | Gabe Bullard

RIYL: Weezer, Blur

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