It’s been 15 years since the Rentals released a full-length. Matt Sharp’s post-Weezer project held so many hearts hostage with their fantastic 1995 debut, Return of the Rentals, that many fans stuck by the band’s side for the less-than-great follow-up, Seven More Minutes. Now the Rentals are finally returning, and although they may never outlive the expectations set by their beloved debut, they at least seem at peace with it: Lost in Alphaville might as well be called Return of the Return of the Rentals.
On “Irrational Things,” a synth-laced, growing pop number that comes close to capturing the same energy that made us love them in the first place, Matt Sharp sings, “Let’s return to a place that we used to know/ an irrational place where we used to go.” Pair that with the syrupy, spacey opening track “It’s Time to Go Home” and the Killers-esque “Song of Remembering” and it’s hard to deny nostalgia’s role in Lost in Alphaville.
The problem is, Lost in Alphaville doesn’t boast the same warm feelings that come from revisiting a comfortable, cherished place. It’s not bad, but despite a few stand-outs (“Traces of Our Tears” and “Seven Years” are nearly as fun to sing along with as the irresistible a woo hoo hoo pop hook in the utterly catchy “Friends of P“) the album also isn’t interesting enough to escape being compared to — and ultimately not reaching — how great they have been.
One could theorize, though, that the band knew those comparisons would haunt them, so they end Alphaville by moving on. The last song, “The Future,” is speckled with spacey sounds and staticky radio transmissions, and the chanting of the phrase “In the future” that sounds a little too similar to Conan O’Brien’s “In the Year 2000” sketch (which is not a bad thing; in fact, given Sharp’s playful disposition, it also may not have been an accident). Through a maze of atmospheric, echoing noises, a woman’s voice patiently promises, “This is the story of all that was beautiful and true/ This is the ending of all that was sleeping inside you/ And it’s the start of something new,” hinting that perhaps the return of the Rentals has only just begun and the best is yet to come.