I want to make this perfectly clear, right from the get-go: The Rentals’s 1995 debut, Return of the Rentals, is a small masterpiece of power pop. It’s a record that easily stands on its own, to the point that its utterly unavoidable association with the early releases of bandleader Matt Sharp’s other band--you know, the one with the songs about Buddy Holly and sweaters and butterflies--is very much a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s really too bad that Return of the Rentals has never been allowed to exist by itself--you really can’t even talk about it without delving into ancient Weezer lore. On the other, its inextricability from Weezer history provides a sense of time and place in which Return can both exist and shine.
Listening to Return of the Rentals, it’s very easy to attribute Weezer’s less-than-credible current position to the absence of Matt Sharp. Whether that’s fair to say is impossible to know for anyone outside of the band. What we do know is this: Sharp was Weezer’s founding bassist, and played with them from the band’s founding in 1992 until 1998. He appears, then, on two of the band’s albums--the classics Weezer (The Blue Album) and Pinkerton. Watching some of the Pinkerton-era videos, he can be seen--usually accompanied by drummer Patrick Wilson--being kind of hilarious: