The album cover of The Rentals
’ Seven More Minutes
describes the music and mood best. We see a blurry view of a group a little ways up the road, giving off the impression of a drunken observer’s point of view. Someone not too familiar with the language or the culture of the street he or she travels on, but who is at once intrigued and taken by it. The evening looks as though it’ll last forever, and maybe it will for this person. The observer will eventually pass out, sleep through the day, and wake up to experience the night once more in all its splendor by way of the drink.
1999’s Seven More Minutes is a picture of the night in these foreign towns and cities. Songs bounce around from rock fests with moog assists to pure, acoustic ruminations. Even the sunnier tracks can only leave the impression of a day filled with overcast skies and impending humidity. However, Matt Sharp (yes, ex-bassist for Weezer), the mastermind behind The Rentals, doesn’t allow the weather to dampen the fun that can be taken from every song on the LP. It’s a schizophrenic spectacle recorded during a time where boy bands were emerging from the fiery pits of the underworld, and rap-metal was finding an army of followers. Despite all of this nonsense going around, The Rentals’ sophomore effort proved that just because it’s shit outside shouldn’t stop one from living it up a little.
Case in point: “Getting By”. It’s buzzsaw guitars clashing with doo-wop moogs; Sharp’s nasally voice telling a tale of fooling around with a twenty-something that he has nothing in common with, but it’s all good. The production is excellent, a rare album from the 20th century that doesn’t shout out for a remastered edition. We’re there, running around the beached of Spain, drinking on and on and on to get by. Acting as the lead song on the album, “Getting By” sets the table for the excellence yet to come.
A few tracks later we’re now circling “Barcelona”, a stream-of-conscious-like flow from a night to remember. “Got absinthe/Got Gaudi/And I got Jamboree/Got my chicas/Maria, Anna, Monica/And I got Noemi.” It’s another electric parade through the streets of the aforementioned capital, which can’t help but to explode near its conclusion, leaving Sharp struggling to release his final words. There other big rockers which deserve a listen on Seven More Minutes, the contradicting “Keep Sleeping” and “Insomnia”. The former erupts on impact with electric guitars and drums playing at the same high speed, with sweet call-and-respond choruses from courtesy of Sharp and the great Petra Haden. The latter is a flat-out punk number, with screeching chords and thudding percussion attempting to drown out Sharp’s cries of “Insomnia, won’t let me go!”
Breaking up the raucous atmosphere are the equally impacting acoustic-driven tracks. “She Says It’s Alright” comes from a character who could be playing at a local bar in Barcelona at an open mic, with beer as payment. It’s a melody that hasn’t escaped my mind in over a decade, and there’s a great bit in one of the choruses: “I love The Smiths and my cigarettes/I like you in the bed/But I don’t need you to get by.” The gorgeous “Overlee” (which evolves into a slow-tempo electric number) appears near the album’s halfway mark, the sobering reminder of a love lost. “It’s still the saddest day/When you say this is not my home” is a memory that can be shared with just about any listener.
Sharp collaborates with a few outside forces of the ’90s (hell, the current) music scene. “Big Daddy C” is a tongue-in-cheek, rap-infused grunge track with choral assists from Damon Albarn, of Blur and Gorillaz fame. There’s even a shout-out to The Rentals’ one hit, “Friends of P.” in the chorus, and a slight dig during a break in the song (“Who the Hell is ‘P’ anyway?’). Albarn’s then-girlfriend, Elastica’s Donna Matthews, guests on the sleazy, moody “Say Goodbye Forever”, with its occasional bursts of electric guitar popping up in between chorus and verse. The final assist doesn’t come in the form of vocals, but in music and lyrics.
Rivers Cuomo, Sharp’s former Weezer bandmate, co-wrote the album’s penultimate track, “My Head Is in the Sun”, the last collaboration on record between himself and Sharp as of now. It’s a reflection of where Cuomo was at the time more than anything; that dark period of time between 1996’s Pinkerton and 2001’s eponymous “Green Album”:
Silence in the air
At the end of the affair
End of the run (it’s just begun)
Silence in the air
I don’t know if I even care
About anyone (you look overrun)
It leads into “Jumping Around”, whose music box intro and outro fits in perfectly with the concept of the record. It’s the end of the long night, and the partier is officially partied out. If “Getting By” is the album’s alarm going off at the start of the day, this track is easily the lullaby to wind you down.
Seven More Minutes is still an absolute gem of an album; a masterful lost album of the nineties. It’s the last Weezer-related piece of greatness, slightly ahead of that band’s 2002 release, Maladroit, and a few laps behind the “Blue Album” and Pinkerton. The Rentals were around years before referencing anything from the 1980s was “cool.” The Strokes and The Killers wouldn’t arrive for a couple of years, so resemblances to The Cars and Gary Numan didn’t garner the band a great deal of popularity at the time. So be it.
Back to the streets of Barcelona. Drinking the night away…