Lost in Alphaville
Artist: The Rentals
Lost in Alphaville is The Rentals first full-length in over 15 years; it comes after 2009’s release Songs About Time, an EP in 2007 and the 1999 Seven More Minutes. Rentals founder and former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp handpicked a great lineup; perhaps Sharp’s real secret superpower is that of casting director. Written and produced by Sharp, the 10 song album features Ozma’s Ryen Slegr on guitar, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney on drums and the airy vocals of Lucius’s Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. Lauren Chipman (Section Quartet) returns on strings.
First track ‘It’s Time to Come Home’ perhaps implies a return to their original sound after the listenable but less than memorable Songs About Time. Sharp reworked select tracks from Songs, which had the harmonies but lacked the trademark, melodic Moog-rock energy. The power pop, modern new wave formula is back but with an updated sensibility. The addition of current indie stars Lucius adds a beautiful and current-sounding delicacy to the retro feel.
‘Traces Of Our Tears’ combines upbeat, radio-friendly hooks with distinctive synth quirks and quivers that maintain the offbeat character that garnered The Rentals their early success. Carney provides a great contrast in drumming styles here, building on a simple beat in the verse and getting ferocious in the chorus.
‘1000 Seasons’ is the perfect pop track, a catchy number that gives a nod to it’s Weezer-flavoured, 90’s guitar-rock roots. ‘Thought of Sound’ combines Sharp’s Moog drones, fuzzy lyrics and a groove which reminds me of early Gary Numan or Joy Division with 60’s pop harmonies. On ‘Damaris’ Wolfe and Laessig’s light and sweet harmonies take centre stage, a twee tribute to bands like Belle and Sebastian or Stereolab.
‘Irrational Things’ is the perfect marriage between fun keyboard hooks and sumptuous smattering of girl/boy vocals. Final track ‘The Future’ is both backward and forward looking. It adds diversity with touches of world-beat, deep backing vocals that reference Afro-Cuban intonations and reminds me, strangely, of a collision between an ‘In Your Eyes’ era Peter Gabriel and an 80’s Kate Bush. The most distinctive track and in a way the most interesting.
Overall Lost in Alphaville is a dreamy, Moog-infused, consistent take on a classic – an actual return to The Rentals.