Luna – Romantica


Luna has always been an aquired taste for most. Their often slow, lazy tempos coupled with half spoke/half sung melodies (a la Lou Reed) riding atop complex, layered production, spoke to the more bed-headed listeners among us. Wareham’s lyrics were a mix of the profound, the absurd, and the outright pretentious (singing in German???) Mass appeal for this band seemed nearly implausible, but they’ve always managed to hold on to a rabid group of supporters.
It is a little hard to believe that I’m listening to a new Luna album now. The band’s frontman and principle songwriter, Dean Wareham, has had quite an impressive and complicated recording career. This is something like Luna’s sixth full length and umpteenth label, and that’s not even considering the work he did with his old band, Galaxie 500. (Luna was yet another casualty in the major label shuffle, having been dropped from Elektra sometime after 1997’s Pup Tent.) And, this is the first record without original bass player and co-founder Justin Harwood. That Wareham can continue for this long despite his business and musical woes and still produce quality albums is certainly a great accomplishment.
In fact, the adversity seems to have cheered the band up. (For those who aren’t familiar with this band at all, the song of Luna’s that got the most airplay was a drowsy, countrified version of “Sweet Child ‘O Mine.”) Don’t expect some kind of wild stylistic leap at this point, but this album is different from it’s predecessors in many ways. Dave Fridmann’s (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) production of Romantica is quite a bit more intimate and friendly than previous outings. Luna still loves to layer those guitars in a dreamy manner, but the results seem less cluttered and more economic, for lack of a better word. There’s also a much more pronounced country twang throughout.
Lyrically, Wareham is still riding the line between art and kitsch, but on “Renee is Crying,” he lets this one slide: “Salt and pepper squid / and Singapore noodles / I could look at your face / for oodles and oodles.” Although a good song, hopefully this is as close as Luna is going to get to Margaritaville. But a little levity goes a long way, and it helps take some of the haze off of Luna’s depressive tendancies. I could certainly get used to this.
The overall feel of this album is much like the sunset lighter featured on the cover. It does sound like the band is on a much-needed vacation. However, they’re still firmly in New York City, just as the listener is still back in their everyday home. Luna takes you to a world where the colors are bright and exaggerated, just the way you’d imagine your dream vacation in the tropics. Even if it’s only in your head, you’ll be glad you came along.