Return Of Rentals Fueled By Trip To Europe

Travel inspires pop-rock band's new album, recorded in London with members of Blur, Lush.

Rentals singer/songwriter Matt Sharp said he knew he had to leave Los

Angeles a few years ago to escape what he described as the pervasive

negativity of that entertainment-industry mecca. What he didn't know was that his travels would inspire and help him

forge the Rentals' Seven More Minutes -- the second album from this informal

pop-rock band led by Sharp.

"When I left here to go make the record," Sharp said, reclining in his cramped Los

Angeles bachelor pad, "I felt this thing of cynicism and sarcasm that you just couldn't

escape at every turn. Every conversation, every place I was at, it seemed like people had

such a difficult time having a good time"

(RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Sharp -- former bassist with the jocular rock band Weezer -- recalled that he found his

cure by travelling to Spain and England two years ago. Suddenly, he said, he was

surrounded by positive vibes and good times. That aura of hedonistic fun and

unexplored possibility fed his songwriting and informed many of the celebratory songs

on the just-released Rentals album, which was recorded in London and includes such

dizzying pop tracks as "Barcelona" (RealAudio excerpt) and "The

Cruise."

The 15-song effort feels like a more fully realized version of the

Rentals' 1995 debut album -- the hastily recorded Return of the

Rentals -- which sold nearly 2 million copies. While that debut

spawned such radio hits as the retro Moog-synthesizer ditty

"Friends of

P" (RealAudio excerpt), Seven More Minutes adds lush

arrangements and semi-autobiographical lyrics to the group's rollicking

new wave--keyboard sound.

"With the first Rentals album," Sharp said, "it was sort of like

elementary school in a way. We were a little thrown off guard by [the

success] of that, because it's not so much about

the music as everything that happened during that period."

Sharp said the first album was recorded in three days on a lark at keyboardist Tom

Grimley's house as a do-it-yourself experiment. But a tape leaked out and caused a buzz

the group was not prepared for.

"This [new] album was sort of a continuation of the improvisation of the whole thing from

the first [album]," Sharp recalled. "But by the time we got on the road, I was way beyond

[that]. I feel like a lot of the themes on [Seven More Minutes] are still pertinent to

me, even though it took a few years to get out."

Sharp points to such songs as the acoustic Byrds-style ballad "She Says it's Alright" and

the dream-pop track "Overlee" -- a strident keyboard-and-acoustic-guitar anthem about

blissful dislocation that serves as the album's unofficial centerpiece -- as songs that were

borne out of the carefree feelings he experienced during his stay overseas.

The latter is one of several tracks that feature contributions from some of Sharp's friends

in the Brit-pop movement. Those musicians include Blur singer Damon Albarn, who

lends his over-the-top vocals to the pseudo-rap tune

HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Rentals,_The/Big_Daddy_C.ram">"Big

Daddy C" (RealAudio excerpt), and Lush singer Miki Berenyi, who sings

backup on "The Cruise."

Ash guitarist/singer Tim Wheeler plays acoustic guitar on "Overlee," and former that dog.

singer Petra Haden sings on the chorus, "Where there's no language and there's no

country/ I want to take you to Overlee."

"For me, a lot of the content of this record is shedding a lot of that super sarcasm, super

cynicism," Sharp said. "There are certain people that will make you step back and go,

'This is all right ... this is pretty damn cool' wherever the hell you're at. There's a bunch of

people in the last couple of years that have done that for me."

One of the people who was there to see Sharp turn that emotional corner, and one of the

lone holdovers from the first Rentals album, is guitarist Rod Cervera.

"The whole record was inspired not only by being in London and recording, but by the

touring situation," Cervera, 27, said. The guitarist said being able to see Europe was an

experience none of the bandmembers -- including such other first-album alumni as

keyboardist Jim Richards -- took for granted; it served to inspire them.

"The mood in the studio was a combination of being joyful and excited, but also hectic

because of the crazy pace," Cervera said. "I would sometimes be in one studio doing a

guitar part, and there would be two other people in the other two studios tracking

something else. There was always something going on."

Another of the guest musicians was Elastica bassist Donna Matthews, who

sings backup on the sultry, midtempo track "Say Goodbye Forever" and duets with Sharp on "Must Be

Wrong."

Wheeler also lends a hand on the synthesizer-dappled tune "Hello, Hello" and Haden

crops up on the album's first single, "Getting By" (RealAudio excerpt).

Sharp said making the album taught him that happiness is not as weird a state as most

of his Los Angeles musician friends make it out to be.

"Like a friend of mine said, it's strange to get to that place where you can say, 'I'm having

a good time,' and be all right with it," Sharp said. "But I think somehow we ended up

getting away with it. I guess that's it -- just to be able to say, 'I'm f---ing happy, and I'm

having a good time, and I don't f---ing care what you say.' "