Moog Gods. the Rentals Hit The Middle East

Since I have not yet officially moved to Burlington, last night I was able to sneak to Boston (from Portland, Maine) with ease in order to see The Rentals perform at The Middle East.


I should mention a few things about my biases in the Rentals’ favor before I jump into this one. Or, in the interest of full disclosure, as the professionals say…

First, an anecdote about Matt Sharps‘ and my hair:

Growing up, my father felt a special need to maintain tight control over how I styled my hair (now at 77, he is, and was then, of an entirely different generation than the parents of most other folks my age). My mom, dad, and I had moved from Boston to Maine when I was five, though my father and I would visit Boston once a month so that Remo, an authentic, Italian barber could cut and style my hair (“These rednecks [in Maine] can’t cut hair,” he’d assert with annoyance every time we drove out of the state). My parents divorced when I was 12 and I would move to Boston to live with my mother (this classic boy leaves the country to live in the city scenario would last only six months before I begged to return to Maine). Free from my father’s reign over the fate of my hairstyle (heavily gelled and combed), I went to the barber with Weezer‘s Blue Album and I had Remo cut my hair in the style of Sharps’ as it appeared on the front–a simple, long crew cut. I would maintain this style for about a decade.

Secondly, spending my teen-age in rural Maine at the dawn of the Internet age, I was a sucker for spending hours chatting on mIRC and on message boards (at 24 kb/s–as we lived on a main road–we were able to get twice as much juice as the suckers with the 14 kb/s modems). There, I’d virtually befriended a small handful of girls who had “Moog” embedded somewhere in their screen-names. From the pictures they used to adorn their Geocities and Angelfire and Bolt home pages, I had assumed that Moog was a style or a culture, as they all maintained a similar appearance. They all had dark rimmed glasses and short blond or pink hair and dresses and were super hip and looked like young librarians and all that I wanted was for them to like me. Little did I know then, isolated in the middle of nowhere, that I was just very much in love with young Rentals fans.

Here, after the decade reign of a Sharpian crew cut, as well as a palpable love for hip, short-haired girls with penchants for keyboards who lived on the other side of the country, I ended up right where I’ve long belonged–at a Rentals show. Herein, if you’re looking for a critical analysis of this particular show, or of the band, it will be best to look elsewhere.

First and foremost: I smiled from the beginning of the show to its end.

I had figured that my chance to see the Rentals had withered and died long ago (considering their eight year hiatus, of sorts), but a newish incarnation of the band thankfully began touring last year and they’re presently on their second wing. Their show this evening started off a little shaky, with songs like (my favorite) ‘Please Let That Be You’ sounding flat and out of tune. Four or five songs in, however, flaws were progressively remedied and the band appeared to be having such a wonderful time playing that if anything else was off, I had a hard time not enjoying performance with them regardless. As the night matured, they continued to sound better and better.

The band still rocks in a vein similar to how they did in the mid-90s, when post-grunge, pre-1996 FCC deregulation made it so that subversive pop bands in this vein (similar, mid-90s non-classifiers, or “alternative” bands, as it was once un-ironically known, included the Toadies, “space-rock”ers Hum, and Superdrag. Pre-Green Album Weezer also applies–probably–but I am sure someone will fervently disagree, and I simply won’t have the energy to care enough about categorical arguments with hipsters) flourished on the radio. If you’re unfamiliar with them, the music is heavily moog and geek driven; the songs are often forlorn tales about cool or out of touch love interests.
37-year-old Sharp looks and performs like a somewhat mysteriously cool uncle, jumping and gyrating, popping and hopping, while air and actual guitarring (spell check suggests “glittering” for that bastardization of a word) on stage–especially juxtaposed against his supporting cast, which includes Sarah Radie, Laura Chipman, and original “additional vocalist” on Return of the Rentals and now bassist goddess Rachel Haden, all grown-up, forever-young-looking versions of the girls I was attracted to when I first came to understood that girls existed in an exciting, non-annoying way (these crushes were rekindled last night, especially by Chipman, the band’s present, especially saucy violinist, who was impressive in both performance, and the amount of joy she was exuding just being on stage–though the individual voices of Haden, Radie and Chipmen each special treats every time they cut into a song). Each individual band member’s performance was amazing and unpretentious. The all appear to be exceedingly beautiful people, they played an hour and a half set and I’ve legitimately come to believe that if every warring nation, person stuck in a circle of violence, and conflicting organization were forced to watch the Rentals perform a song per morning, the world would most likely be a less aggressive and more agreeable place. In fact, if I were president, I’d nominate Moog-king Ben Pringle (formerly of the ever-incredible, nerd/pop-punk band Nerf Herder) to assume the role of US Representative at the UN. His pursed, mustachio-lipped gyrate-dance would be a wonderful way to tell the world that we’re changing our tune after all of these years. Fuck bombing, everyone. We just want to dance. And wear mustaches. And play the keyboard.

The band recently released an EP called Last Little Life, which, at around five dollars for five songs, is well worth the purchase. This evening’s highlight from the EP was an extended version of “Sweetness and Tenderness,” which has long existed elsewhere and, like everything about the band (apparently), has a special place in my heart. For adolescence/teen/20s-long Weezer fans, watching that band fall and grasp to hold on for nearly a decade has been a sad experience. Their lack of convincing staying power will forever be upsetting. Sharp, however, with the Rentals, is simply a joy that, even if they experiences a few shaky songs early in an evening, has in his music what it takes to make the world a better place–or to at least make me dance awkwardly to super-wonderful geek-ballads.

Other related stuff to check out:

Moog (Documentary), another WordPress Rentals Lovefest, and show her that you love her (unrelated).

(Photos heisted from The Rentals website)

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One Comment

  1. citizenlowell
    Posted September 9, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I used to get my hair cut my Remo too, thats fucked.

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