Music

Luna: The Best of Luna and Lunafied

In Luna, Dean Wareham quipped his way through New York's arty-boho, high-society set over a cinematic soundscape of catchy melodies, guitar textures, and chugging Velvet Underground-inspired rock.


Luna

The Best of Luna

Label: WMG
US Release Date: 2006-06-20
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Amazon
iTunes
Luna

Lunafied

Label: Rhino Digital
US Release Date: 2006-05-19
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The moon hangs over the Manhattan skyscrapers, the World Trade Center talks to the Empire State, guitar melodies rush by like taxicabs, the drums rumble below like the subway, something naughty is happening in a bar booth, and a passerby mumbles something under his breath: a quip, a seduction, a mad observation, a hope. Such was life in a Luna song as Dean Wareham and his rock band created a kind of imaginary, idealized Manhattan of the mind, one that was at once sophisticated and simple, uptown and downtown, snazzy and punky, lonely and full of people, glamorous and sleazy.

Luna broke up in 2005, so these two new releases -- a best-of collection and a digital-only release of songs that Luna covered -- serve as a kind of summing-up of a band that never hit it big, but attracted a consistent popularity just below the radar of mainstream success. The music never possessed the oversized ego or effrontery of grunge. Neither was it jangly or rootsy enough for the Americana crowd. Instead, taking off from the Velvet Underground, whom Luna opened for on a European reunion tour in the early '90s, the band occupied a kind of ethereal strata of rock with a self-consciousness to it. Indie rock that wasn't hung up on indie cred, but wasn't about to record with the Matrix. Television for the Internet Age.

Neither The Best of Luna nor Lunafied feature songs by chronological release date, which raises the question: what story do these new orderings of selected songs tell? There is a cinematic quality to Luna's music that emerges on these albums. All those moody guitar textures and hummable melodies layered over simple, folksy chord structures sound like celluloid clicking through a projector. In fact, Luna's oeuvre could be heard as a companion to a whole set of films about the preppie art set of Manhattan. They sing the song of the penthouse above the open road. Play this music alongside your Whit Stillman, Noah Buambach, and maybe also your Sophia Coppola films. Keep your Collector's Edition Midnight Cowboy and The Graduate DVDs close by too, while you're at it.

In the Luna movie, we see the world through a character's eyes -- our noir Dean Wareham. He's young, arty, bohemian, well-dressed, and moves in fancy circles, but maintains a cool distance from those around him. His life is lived in the tiny, tiny hours between the evening and the dawn. He's read his Paul Auster, has a vintage tube amplifier with blinking lights, and there's a space-age-bachelor-pad lounge chair in the corner of his loft. He knows the words to every Serge Gainsbourg song, and has a way-cool punk rock record collection. They're selling all his heroes, but he's heard it all before.

Our leading man is blinded by love dust. He's out all night chasing girlies, he's late to work, and he goes home early. He paints your face on a twenty dollar bill, but it isn't legal tender and he thinks about you still. Then, when he sees you, he had to get drunk just to look at your face. But, later, he tells us that actually he's bad with faces, and worse with names. What all this adds up to is that our protagonist loves to play games of sexual conquest, coy flirtation, and cool remoteness. He wants to reap the bitter consequences, the droll perspectives, and the sublime melancholia of relationships gone wrong in the big city.

The camera in this Luna film loves to focus on women, to catch them gazing out the window at the lights as they stir the olives in their martini glasses. They are well-dressed too, like our hero, and interesting looking, with good haircuts and funky retro skirts. Their eyes are deep and their makeup is just right and there is something mysterious about them. They could be actresses, writers, gallery owners, musicians, artists, publicists, trust-funders, young socialites. It doesn't really matter. Our protagonist is bewitched by them. He stares at their reflection in a puddle at his feet. He wants to plug them in, send them a pentagram, and feed them diasapam. "Please excuse my eyes, please excuse my hands, please excuse my eyes, put me in my place," he tells one woman from his past. "I'll wear a stylin' moustache, you'll wear a frozen smile," he tells another woman he's just met. She may only be able to see him again for twenty-three minutes in Brussels, but she -- and we -- will always tell him how much we miss him.

If the Best of album is the feature film here, then the Lunafied digital-only release are the outtakes: Wareham's nasal voice and his band's layers of guitar, bass, and drums are the perfect vessel for transforming every song into something new. These are more than just covers, they are incorporations of old songs into a new life. They are the making of a usable musical past from lost singles and b-sides. Old music finds new meaning. As a critic once wrote about listening to Yo La Tengo's cover album, Fakebook, you can hear Wareham singing his record collection, which includes everything from the aforementioned Gainsbourg and "Everybody's Talkin'" Midnight Cowboy cover to Jonathan Richman, Beat Happening, Wire, Dream Syndicate, David Byrne, and Donovan.

Together, these two albums offer an overview -- the film festival retrospective -- of Luna. This was a band that turned life into a glamorous movie and made us remember that a certain cinematic Manhattan of the mind -- with its buzz and groove, its enchanting women and its intriguing men; its droll humor and burning intensity; its damned sheer coolness -- can come into glorious focus under a million, a billion, a trillion stars. Roll the credits.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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