“You can never give / the finger to the blind.”
And with that bizarre, hilarious non-sequitur dryly delivered over a rubbery, wobbly slow-motion guitar riff, Luna took off.
Luna was the successor to songwriter/guitarist Dean Wareham’s beloved cult band Galaxie 500.
But in the early 90’s, Galaxie 500 were more heard-about than actually-heard; for a while there the records were out of print and hard to get hold of, and there was no YouTube to check.
I might have heard Luna first; they put out a run of records from 1992-2004 (most of which are consistently good, with the exception of 1999’s uninspired The Days of Our Nights); and while I came to retroactively, obsessively adore Galaxie 500, I kind of took Luna a little for granted while they were around.
Which is kind of a shame, actually. If anything, Luna were more varied in their sonics and songwriting/playing than G500 (second guitarist Sean Eden seemingly helped push Wareham out of his comfort zone, and a rhythm section with players from The Chills and The Feelies didn’t hurt either).
For all the fuss about The Strokes in 2001, Luna had been doing the VU/Television thing – sometimes with actual members of the VU and Television – for a decade already. They were warm, and wry, and comfortable (perfect hangover music), and seemed like they’d always be around somehow.
But Luna split in 2005; the tour documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me suggests the economics just weren’t favorable for a mid-popularity band, and hauling gear in and out of a van after all those years probably got pretty old.
As indicated up top, Wareham often favored lyrically-odd scenarios; even when the meaning isn’t immediately apparent, the surreal specificity of his chosen imagery is often striking.
Like this exquisite, sad song; I don’t know exactly what it’s about – someone who’s involuntarily-committed for mental issues or depression? “Your hands are scarred” suggests to me a suicide attempt (or maybe defensive wounds, or clawing to escape entrapment; possibilities that ALSO have a metaphorical resonance when you are talking about mental illness/depression), and for all its beauty – like the chiming xylophone doubling the riff at the start, or the high, lonesome twangy solo – there’s a real sense of last-chance desperation nestled in that bed of sparkling guitars:
This next one has one of my favorite verses of his; so much economical (and darkly funny) storytelling there:
I had lunch with an old girlfriend, who knows all my faults
And pretends to want to help
She said, “I really don’t mind you keeping secrets from me,
But please don’t keep them from yourself.”
(That liquid, elegantly-weeping guitar solo!)
Words like ‘languid’ and ‘limpid’ and ‘pillowy’ don’t quite do the delicate suppleness of this music justice:
But Luna could sizzle and cook as well. Sterling Morrison plays on this one, and if the question is, “how long will this go on?”, then I say, “All night, please.” In the car, this endlessly-cresting song (and its relentless bassline) gives me leadfoot something fierce; by the time we get to the ba ba‘s, I am flying:
They did some pretty great (and very Luna) covers:
A million, a billion, a trillion stars:
And now, one star fewer.
Which artists or art did you take for granted during their run, that hindsight has elevated for you?
(Post image sourced from Wikimedia Commons).
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