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"
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
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
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"
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
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.' "