Luna – Close Cover Before Striking

Close Cover Before Striking

With seven songs and at just under 30 minutes, Close Cover Before Striking helps re-kindle the lost art of making short yet thoroughly satisfying albums. Nothing about the five originals and two covers here makes them come across like B-sides or throwaways. The disc feels like a complete statement without any wasted moments, and there really isn’t anything more that you can ask for. It has a breezy, off-the-cuff, feeling, and the band has nothing to prove to anyone.
Dean Wareham is a totally confident lyricist and singer, and it makes such a huge difference. His voice is mixed high and his delivery, which sounds a bit like a European Eef Barzelay from Clem Snide, is dead-on. “I’ll wear a styling moustache, you wear a frozen smile” (from “Astronaut”) would sound smarmy or ironic from less skilled singers, but here it works perfectly. On “The Alibi,” lyrics like “I point my fingers to the sky, I made it up / Don’ ask me why / Nobody knows,” float beautifully over the band’s pillowy backing.
I’ve heard several comparisons to the Velvet Underground, and if that’s accurate, which I can see, this would be close to the VU’s stellar third album. “Astronaut,” the disc’s first song, has a propulsive New-Order style feel, made even more so by the sliding, “True Faith”-style solo that closes out the song. The driving rhythm makes lyrics like “I want to play the game, I want to live again / I want to bend your spoons and make your silver shine” sound like a mission statement. “Because your subtle stare is so revealing” is one of the best lines on the disc. Their take of the Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend,” while slightly unnecessary, is successful because it manages to re-create the song without degrading the source. They stay close to the original but lack the coolness and drunken swing of the Stones’ version, although Wareham manages to make the line “Making love and breaking hearts, it is a game for you” sound utterly convincing.
“Teenage Lighting” sports a nifty riff of it’s own, though the song ultimately feels a bit bogged down. “Drunken Whistler” is a beautifully lyrical instrumental, with a great George Harrison-type guitar solo. Here, Luna brings their atmospheres to life. It’s followed by the wonderfully open “The Alibi,” with guitars and bass moving in and out of each other’s way and a tempo that is held back just enough to keep the tension building. It’s one of the disc’s highlights. “New Haven Comet” and a version of Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights” close out the disc but never really build to the climax that the disc’s second half could have used. “Astronaut” anchors the first half strongly, but there isn’t really another song to renew the momentum that it creates. Not that that’s completely a bad thing because even the mid-tempo songs have an energy of their own, it’s just that the disc may have benefited from shuffling the track order around a bit. Overall, it’s refreshingly casual and strong without making you feel like you have to worship it.
It’s almost cliche, but this album rewards careful listening. It may be that if you’re not already familiar with the band it takes some time to get through their somewhat aloof veneer. By the fourth listen, the true intricacy of the guitar interplay becomes more pronounced and lyrics that are at first puzzling begin to tell the story. In fact, they can start to sound downright intimate.