Luna: Live

Dave Heaton



Label: Arena Rock Recording Co.
US Release Date: 2001-02-13

Live albums can put you "in the moment" of a stunning performance, or they can be astoundingly redundant, unnecessary recreations of superior studio recordings. Luna's first live album, Live, is one of the former, and thus is perfect not only for diehard Luna concertgoers or for Luna fans who have yet to see them play live, but also for the uninitiated who want to get a taste of Luna's music.

The cover art of the quintessential Luna album, 1995's Penthouse, consists of black-and-white photographs of New York City skyscrapers at night. To me, those pictures have always been the perfect summary of the mood of Luna's music. Their songs evoke both the dreamy, absurdly quiet nature of late nights/early mornings and the hectic yet mysterious quality of the biggest cities. Lead singer Dean Wareham sings of late-night taxi rides, after hours bars and suspicious strangers, while the rest of the band helps him lay down guitar-heavy surround-sound, like the Velvets stumbling onto a quiet groove.

On Live, their sound is both more choppy and more relaxed. On several songs they stretch out and improvise, and Wareham sings in a more casual, loose way throughout. The tracks are pulled from three shows, in New York City and Washington D.C. One is the band's last show with bassist Justin Harwood, the others are their first with new bassist Britta Phillips, who also lends backing vocals to a few tracks and fills Stereolab vocalist Laetitia Sadier's shoes on the band's cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie and Clyde", which originally appeared on Penthouse.

With the documentation of the lineup change, it seems that the album could be a historical marking of a transitional period in Luna's career. Yet musically they sound as Luna-like as ever. Plus the songs come from throughout their career, from their first and second LPs ("Anesthesia", "Tiger Lily", "Bewitched", "Friendly Advice") through their third and fourth ones ("Chinatown", "Sideshow By the Seashore", "23 Minutes in Brussels", "Pup Tent"), to their latest studio album, the fine The Days of Our Nights ("Hello Little One", "4000 Days"). They even stretch further back to Wareham's roots on one track, a straightforward but beautiful version of Galaxie 500's "Fourth of July".

Luna encountered enough label troubles with their last album to drive them to the indie world; this release is on NYC's Arena Rock Recordings. A release like this makes me cherish the fact that Luna is persistent in getting their music out one way or another. Their music sets a certain midnight mood like no one else's. Live is both a perfect distillation of that mood and a great reminder of the wondrous songs they've released over the last decade or so.





Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.


Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.


Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.


Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.


The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.


Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.


Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.


'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.


10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.