THE REMBRANDTS

TheRembrandts cover web

Album: Via Satellite
Label: Blue Élan Records
Vertrieb: Rough Trade
VÖ: 23. August 2019
 

Welcome back! Damit hätte wohl kaum jemand gerechnet:

The Rembrandts präsentieren 2019 ihr Comeback-Album »Via Satellite«.

 

Ihre Karriere began Anfang der 1990er-Jahre mit Hits wie »Just the Way It Is, Baby« und »I’ll Be There For You«, der Titelmusik der Sitcom »Friends« von 1994. Zuletzt war es allerdings still um The Rembrandts, ganze 18 Jahre warteten Fans vergebens auf ein neues Album der amerikanischen Rockband.

Mit »Via Satellite« präsentiert nun das Duo Danny Wilde und Phil Solem 2019 endlich neues Material, den Nachfolger von »Lost Together« aus dem Jahr 2001. »How Far Would You Go« heißt die erste Single des neuen Albums. Und die verspricht einen Mix aus Rock und eingängigem Gitarrenpop.

Let's get this out of the way first: The Rembrandts—the pop-rock duo of multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Phil Solem and Danny Wilde—co-wrote the effervescent Friends theme song, "I'll Be There For You." That song, with its inimitable handclaps and jangly guitar riffs, spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart, topped the charts in Canada and Scotland, and continues to find new audiences thanks to Friends reruns.

However, for Solem and Wilde, that song is just one small chapter in a friendship and creative relationship spanning four decades, two bands, five studio albums, two greatest hits records, a handful of U.S. radio hits, and two U.S. Top 40 singles. Anyone familiar with the Rembrandts only from "I'll Be There For You" should know that the band has a rich catalog brimming with smart, well-wrought pop gems.

"Our m.o. is to only put out things that have a timeless kind of quality to it, that isn’t going to be time-stamped in some era," Solem says. "And, so far, our records have done pretty well with that."

That streak remains unbroken on Via Satellite, the first Rembrandts studio album in 18 years. The meticulous, guitar-driven songs explore every nook and cranny of the pop continuum. "How Far Would You Go" is jangly rock singed lightly with '60s psychedelic atmosphere; "Broken Toy" hews toward dizzying power-pop with hollering vocals awash in emotional grit; and "Come to California" is electrified roadhouse blues-rock burnished by glam-soul detailing. Anchoring these songs are Solem and Wilde's harmonies, which are imploring and tender on the twangy "Count On You"; Beatles-esque on the jaunty "Me And Fate"; and graceful spirals on the chiming midtempo ballad "Now."

Via Satellite's lyrics are clear-eyed about life's ebbs and flows—including romantic breakdowns, changes of geographical scenery and unexpected emotional fissures—and the leaps of faith people take in order to pursue happiness. As always, words come courtesy of both Solem and Wilde. The former penned the melancholy "Broken Toy" ("Which is definitely about the end of a relationship"), although he says his lyrical contributions tend to be more observational: "Most of the other stuff coming out of me was just how I look at the world." Wilde concurs. "Phil's a quirky guy—he's the guy that comes up with the crazy lyrics and, you know, borderline genius stuff. I'm more the romantic in the band, and I write more relationship stuff. It's just my comfort zone. He helps me with that, and I help him with that, and then we come up with a Rembrandts song."

"We are individuals, and we do have our own unique sounds, but it's the harmonies, the interweaving of the melodies, that really make the Rembrandts sound," says Wilde.

Being on the same wavelength comes naturally to the duo. Solem and Wilde originally met each other at a party, where they bonded over a stack of David Bowie, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, and Cheap Trick vinyl LPs. At the time, Solem and Wilde were just 20. The former was performing around the Los Angeles music scene with power-poppers Loose Change, while the latter was playing in the now-legendary power-pop band The Quick. When that group dissolved, Wilde and his Quick bandmate, bassist Ian Ainsworth, formed Great Buildings and recruited Solem to join; the group released one album, 1981's power-pop/new wave cult classic, Apart From The Crowd, for Columbia Records.

After Great Buildings, Solem and Wilde moved forward with solo careers, yet were always close in touch. In 1989, the pair gathered together for a songwriting session in Los Angeles. It was from this meeting that The Rembrandts were born. "We always said, 'Yeah, one day we're going to get back together and do something,'" Wilde recalls. "When my solo deal finally fizzled out, I called Phil and said, “How about we get together, write a few songs and maybe get a publishing deal? So Phil came out to Thousand Oaks and, man, we just woodshedded." In short order, these demos landed them a publishing deal and then a record deal—and ended up comprising the bulk of the Rembrandts' 1990 self-titled debut, nearly as-is. "The way the songs were, the way they showed up on the record in the first place, was basically the way we wrote them, in the order that we wrote them," Solem says. "It was just like some sort of a dream. Like, this can’t possibly be real. And then the next thing you know, there it was."

The Rembrandts featured the sinewy "Just The Way It Is, Baby," which landed at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band's self-produced second album, 1992's Untitled, also spawned the minor modern rock radio hit "Johnny, Have You Seen Her?," and noticeably more sophisticated production values, as well as ambitious instrumentation and arrangements comparable to Jellyfish and the Beatles' later work. Album number three, 1995's platinum-selling L.P., retains the group's holistic pop approach; in fact, the album's moody, inward-looking songs fit with grungy rock contemporaries and quirky melodic bands such as the Posies and Crowded House.

The Friends theme emerged when L.P. was nearly done, and it happened quickly. Friends executive producer Kevin Bright was a Rembrandts fan, and enlisted Solem and Wilde to contribute to the song. Within weeks of adding their final creative touches, Friends premiered—and the theme became a radio sensation. The Rembrandts went back into the studio to create their own full, single-length version of the tune, and "I'll Be There For You" was included on L.P. as a hidden bonus track.

In the years between the last Rembrandts album, 2001's Lost Together, and Via Satellite, both Solem and Wilde have remained busy working musicians. The former, who moved from Minneapolis to Nashville in recent years, has written for and produced a variety of artists and done some commercial work. Wilde co-wrote several songs on the Gin Blossoms' 2018 album, Mixed Reality, and released an album with that band's Jesse Valenzuela, Prairie Wind.

This close-knit, loyalty-based approach goes a long way to explain why the Rembrandts remain a vibrant entity, nearly 30 years after Solem and Wilde came together in a garage, just to hang out and write some songs. However, both men also still possess vast musical curiosity, and remain deeply excited by the possibilities of creativity. This passion certainly elevates Via Satellite—"It's in the grooves," Wilde says. "You can tell that Phil and I had fun making the record"—and is perhaps the most enduring part of the Rembrandts' legacy.

"It's so much easier to not have any pressure, and just write songs for the fun of it," Wilde says. "I think the best stuff that we've ever done is in between [record] deals. When you forget about [trying to write hits], and just have fun making music again, that's when it seems to pay off." 

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