"Last Romantic Day," a song off the latest Rentals EP, The Last Little Life, begins with gentle plucking on violin strings. Even before any other instruments come in, it's painfully clear that Matt Sharp did the right thing when he freed himself from the repressive yoke of playing in Weezer. In a matter of seconds, Sharp and his cohorts show more dexterity, texture, ambition, and range than Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo has over the course of five albums. What's interesting is that, as laid-back as Sharp's delivery is, his work conveys more feeling (and, thus, more intensity) than Weezer's, which by comparison sounds stilted and insincere. Much like Weezer drummer Pat Wilson's side band, the Special Goodness, the Rentals provide heaping helpings of satisfaction for Weezer fans who wanted to see Cuomo and company evolve. Unlike the Special Goodness, however, the Rentals bear little resemblance to Cuomo's creative prison camp and actually veer into impressionistic territory. They also sound like a band — and when the triple-threat harmony vocals of violinist Lauren Chipman, guitarist Sara Radle, and bassist Rachel Haden get into full swing, the band becomes unstoppable. Ironically, by loosening their grip on formula, the Rentals arrive at pop perfection.
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