The Rentals

You may have heard of them by another name, like “that other band with that guy from Weezer” or “those guys who did that ‘Friends of P’ song with the woohoo stuff” or “why is Gary Numan on the radio?” Whatever you call them, after 12 years (most of them dormant), two albums, 25 LP tracks (or, only about two songs per year), endless lineup changes (leaving one original member), a break up, and a few threatened lawsuits, The Rentals are finally back and are officially the greatest band on the planet.

Says me.

I saw them at Irving Plaza tonight. This was their 10th or so show since reuniting earlier this year (after breaking up in 1999 following the flop Seven More Minutes). I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. What I got was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Ozma opened. They also recently reunited after a brief hiatus, and they also have a Weezer connection (getting their break opening for Cuomo & Gang on a crappy tour in 2001). They put on a good rock ‘n’ roll show. The drums were loud, the rhythm guitarist was jumping all over the place, the singer threw his head back whenever he was about to belt out a note, which for some reason reminded me of Wayne’s World. I was a bit ticked that they forgot the words to an entire verse of perhaps their best song, “Natalie Portman,” and the Tetris song was played almost too fast to enjoy. But it’s hard to complain much; this was the most exciting opening set I’ve seen in a long while.

Then we stood around for over half an hour. I guess it’s a hard setup with so many different people doing different things. The Rentals don’t have a full-time guitarist yet, so they borrowed Ryan from Ozma; he and the drummer stuck to one instrument all night. But the other five members were all over the place, alternating between acoustic guitars and analog synthesizers and xylophones and basses and violins and tambourines and trombones. Everyone seemed to play everything, and everyone sang.

The show kicked off with the new violinist playing a nice, soft solo piece (looping parts for harmony). The other band members joined her in progress, improvising here and there, and eventually it turned into a very different but very good rendition of “Move On” from their debut Return of the Rentals.

There wasn’t a misstep the rest of the night. They got the crowd going with a few popular numbers (“Please Let that Be You,” “The Love I’m Searching For”), slowed it down when necessary, and altered songs in unexpected ways, changing dynamics and adding new instrumental segments and new harmonies. One of the beauties of having such simple songs is that there’s almost no end to how they can be rearranged and re-orchestrated while still keeping their core.

Frontman Matt Sharp showed far more charisma throughout the night than might be expected from such a nerd, interacting with all the band members, changing lyrics on the fly, occasionally jumping on the Marshall stack, and so on. Rachel Haden (formerly of that dog.) still has a beautiful voice, and it’s a lot of fun to watch her roll her eyes at Matt’s antics. The new Moogist/singer looks a lot like a young Diane Keaton who’s stuck perpetually doing the robot.

The encore put the night over from being a highly enjoyable show into Best Ever territory. They started with a slow building cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” which seamlessly transitioned into their minor hit “Friends of P,” which then morphed into a loose jam while Matt brought a few fans on stage, babbled for a while, sweat a lot, and encouraged everyone to dance, before they brought it back around for a few more choruses of “P.”

The Rentals’ sound (moogs, violins, female harmonies) is fresher than ever in 2006, and it’s hard not to get swept up in their enthusiasm and energy. If they come to your town, check ’em out.

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2 Responses to “The Rentals”

  1. Moog Gods. the Rentals Hit The Middle East « Angioplasty Media Says:

    […] (Documentary),  another WordPress Rentals Lovefest, and show her that you love her […]

  2. alexsteed Says:

    hey. i guess wordpress makes you aware of when other people link your entries, but i just wanted to note that i caught your review and i’ve written another one, just about equally as glowing. i hope you’ll take a look.

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