Pacer;Return of the Rentals
Once upon a time, bands would wait many albums (or 10 years, whichever came first) before indulging in offshoot projects. No longer. As yet another barometer of how much faster pop culture moves, we now have splinter bands by alterna-rockers who've just begun making an artistic or commercial dent.
Kim Deal of the Breeders probably didn't have a choice. When her sister and band mate Kelly was busted for heroin and underwent rehab, the Breeders' third album suffered a meltdown. Instead we get Pacer (4AD/EEG), by Deal's new band, the Amps. The music continues the sugarcoated noise of the Breeders' Last Splash, but the Amps are even cruder Pacer sounds more like a band rehearsal than a finished album. The modern-girl-group sweetness of ''Dedicated'' is a kick, but Deal's snide-angel charm is squandered by amateurish production and playing.
If the Amps aim (unsuccessfully) for the scruffy punch of punk, the Rentals go straight for the zip of punk's more commercial sibling, new wave, on Return of the Rentals (Maverick/Reprise). A semi-supergroup driven by the rhythm section of platinum nerds Weezer, the Rentals go for it all cheesy synthesizers straight out of the Cars' ''Just What I Needed,'' lyric references to synth-pop droid Gary Numan, and the springy, skinny-tie feel of circa-1979 pop. Return is no great shakes, but its winsome love songs make for good, clean, disposable fun. Whip it good. Pacer: C+ Return of the Rentals: B