The Rentals - Q36
Music You Might Want to Consider - Q
You know how hard it is to find an album or a band that starts with the letter Q?
It’s not impossible, but it’s a needle in a haystack. In my personal Apple Music library I have exactly ONE artist that started with Q, and that’s Queen. But since EVERYONE has at least one Queen album or song in their library, why would I recommend them?
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The Rentals hit my radar in 1995, with their debut record, Return of the Rentals. I was in college at the time, and Matt Sharp’s work with Weezer lended enough credibility to his 80’s New Wave side project for me. With a sound that fit better in a playlist alongside Tears for Fears and Human League, Return of the Rentals was a fun anomaly in the world steeped in grunge. In a lot of ways, it was a bit ahead of its time as well, since the late 90s were far more fun than the early 90s.
If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that The Rentals fell off of my radar as fast as they hit it; I listened to their debut on a regular basis, but didn’t pay attention to if they released anything afterwards. And, let’s be real, it’s rare for any band to live up to a debut that was as sublime as theirs.1 I didn’t want to risk disappointment.
With the advent of social media, I rediscovered the Rentals with their 2014 release, Lost in Alphaville, a fun throwback to their first record2. And then 2020 hit.
We all know what happened in 2020. In the midst of a global pandemic, The Rentals released a sprawling, double LP concept album called Q36. The synthesizers are still at the forefront. At times it feels like Bowie-lite. But it’s a long album; clocking in at over an hour.
The final track, a nearly seven minute epic titled “Elon Musk is Making Me Sad”, imagines a world where the narrator grew up with everyone’s favorite billionaire tech genius. It’s a sprawling tale of envy and rivalry, the lamentations that come from our choices, for good or ill. For a song this long, it shouldn’t be so catchy, though.
Q36 is a good album to play in the background while completing mundane tasks that don’t require a lot of thought. You can take moments away from your work to chuckle at the wordplay or to admire the wall of sound that Sharp and Co. create on each track. Nothing will be as fun as Return of the Rentals, but is anything as fun than it was when we were younger?
A much better review of this album can be found here.
And if you want to check it out for yourself, here it is on Bandcamp.
Weezer had this problem too; Pinkerton was great, but most everything after that was terrible. I’ll get into that when I finally hit “W” in this project.
I can’t speak to their other two releases - 1999’s Seven More Minutes and 2011’s Resilience; I never listened to them.