The Rentals -- Seven More Minutes (Reprise/Maverick, 1999)
The main thing separating Weezer 1.0 from the 2.0 band currently churning out clunkers like "Beverly Hills" is Matt Sharp. The band's bass player seemed like a cursory element back when the group reformed, his departure a mere bump in the road. But his absence is felt. Sharp provided a much needed foil to Rivers Cuomo's stiff, deer-in-the-headlights demeanor, stalking the stage incessantly live, and providing many of the quirky and lighter moments in the studio (all those weird vocal noises in the background of "El Scorcho" come to mind).
But Sharp had just as many pop-songwriting chops up his sleeve, a feat he proved with his band the Rentals, which included members of like-minded L.A. band That Dog, and scored a minor hit with "Friends of P" from their debut album, Return of the Rentals. That record, essentially Weezer with synths and female vocals, is well worth tracking down, but their follow-up, Seven More Minutes, allowed them to break out of "side-project" territory. Of course, Sharp quitting Weezer didn't hurt in that regard either.
The group, an ever-evolving collective with Sharp at the center, decamped to Barcelona and built an eclectic collection of power pop songs. Filled with fun diversions (countrified "She Says It's Alright," the maddening stomp of "Big Daddy C.") the record featured guest spots from Brit-pop stars like Blur's Damon Albarn, Ash's Tim Wheeler and Donna Matthews from Elastica as well as some background vocals from a pre-SNLMaya Rudolph.
The band split up soon after Seven More Minutes release (and commercial failure) but Sharp put together a new version of the Rentals in 2005, heading out on tour and recording a series of EPs and mixed media projects that play off of many of the tropes introduced on this underappreciated gem.
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