Out There

It's a Moog point
return of The Rentals
The Rentals
Maverick/Reprise

Weezer's 1994 debut revealed the occasional and surprising diamond among the coal: "Say it Ain't So" and "My Name is Jonas" are perfect pop singles of the post-pop age, witty and cleverly crafted. The band's contribution to the new Mallrats soundtrack, "Suzanne," is an even rarer treat--an old-fashioned love song done up Beach Boys style, a dash of Queen thrown in for ironic affection. Which is why The Rentals, Weezer bassist Matt Sharp's time-killer while Weezer's on hiatus, is such a barren disappointment. Where Weezer's a band driven by songs, insistent melodies coated with retro harmonies and punchy hooks, The Rentals are an experiment in sounds that seems to exist for its own sake--Moog synthesizers recalling late '70s and early '80s new-wave, female harmonies and violins (courtesy, in large part, of that dog.'s Petra and Rachel Haden, brought in for effect but without the impact), lifeless and listless vocals about summer girls and brilliant boys.

It's a dull listen, dry like lo-fi but without the charm and the quirks inherent to "cheap" recordings even when they stink--an homage to a sound that emerged stillborn more than a decade ago.

Old turkey
Help
Various artists
Go! Discs/London

Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon
Various artists
Hollywood Records

The first disc is a Bosnian relief effort featuring the best of the Brits contributing some new tracks and the occasional oddity and cover; the second disc is the long-promised John Lennon tribute with proceeds going toward a spaying and neutering organization, which might explain the inexplicable presence of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilot's Scott Weiland.

The first disc is a keeper, cause or no, a rare compilation without a single contribution sounding out-of-place: The Stone Roses vamp "Love Spreads" as slide-blues; Radiohead's "Lucky" showcases the pent-up drama that makes them so unforgettable; Portishead's "Mourning Air" is denser and richer than anything on their debut. And the Paul Weller-Paul McCartney-Noel Gallagher take on "Come Together" is the family reunion of three generations always meant to be.

As for the Lennon disc, which also features Candlebox, Blues Traveler, Collective Soul, Sponge, Toad the Wet Sprocket--some tribute. Why didn't John Popper just crap on Lennon's grave, 'cause it's the same damn difference.

--Robert Wilonsky

 
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