» LATEST FEATURES
LITERATURE» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
Is this how a pop musician of cult status ages gracefully, by paying homage to our rock elders? Or is this a sign of another elder statesman burning out, soon to fade away? "Well I don't want to burn out. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm only 38 years old so hopefully I'll be able to sing and play the guitar for [a while] yet," says Wareham, who admits he has no clue how many notes you can steal before it's plagiarism. But don't let all this talk of rock music and elder statesmen fool you; Wareham and Luna are still firmly planted in their pop roots with their sixth proper full-length, the often- brilliant and usually- engaging Romantica.
Actually, the formula remains much the same for the new record, although the group has a fresh look once again, which Wareham welcomes. New addition Britta Phillips (bass, keyboard, vocals) joined the band in 2001, replacing original bassist Justin Harwood and leaving Wareham as the sole founding member of the band. Wareham met the absolutely gorgeous Phillips, who was the cartoon voice of JEM as well as the guitarist in Justine Bateman's all-girl band in the movie Satisfaction, through Luna's guitar tech who had toured with Ben Lee while Phillips was a member of Lee's backing band. Luna is also touring with another member of Ben Lee's band, Lara Meyerattken, on keyboard.
On Romantica, Luna is back on top of its game. Wareham's goose-bump inducing, dreary-eyed, infectious, mid-tempo pop songs are sugar-coated with the hallucinogenic dust of producer Gene Holder (of the dB's) and mixing engineer Dave Fridmann (producer of The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev), with additional engineering by The Flaming Lips' Michael Ivins. Fridmann and Holder breathe considerable life into Luna's melodic songs, adding multiple layers of texture and a touch of psychedelia. "I like recording with one person and mixing with another, because you get some fresh perspective," says Wareham. "Gene got great sounds for us, and Dave added an element of strangeness." Wareham continues: "I am very happy with Romantica... which is not always how I feel after making a record. ... I think Romantica has the best songs of any Luna record."
Indeed, Romantica's 12 songs have the sound of a re-energized band. A little fresh blood goes a long way. Case in point, the gorgeous '60s R&B-inspired ballad "Mermaid Eyes." Phillips and Wareham share lead vocals in a call and response duet between two torn lovers whose "wishes are washes." The song winds down as synthetic strings soar over sparse piano and submerged guitar, creating the feeling of gently lapping waves carrying a message-in-a-bottle ashore.
The dazzling "Renée Is Crying," another ballad, finds Wareham's lyrics in fine form as he sings the best rhyming couplet he's penned to date: "Salt and pepper squid and Singapore noodles/ I could look at your face for oodles and oodles." "I think my lyrics are better now than on my earlier records," relates Wareham, who admits his standards for lyrics are higher than they used to be. The lyric sheet for Romantica reads like an aging hipster's dream journal: drinking black champagne as venetian blinds slice up the sun and a lover's face turns into a trillion stars.
It's nice to have the Luna of old back in the saddle, free of distractions and keeping things simple, which has been the trademark of Wareham's songwriting since his days with Galaxie 500. Luna made Romantica while they were label-less, utilizing a loan from their manager and the money they earned from 2001's Luna Live and the subsequent tour to record the album while enjoying complete creative freedom. After years of working with Elektra Records, Luna jumped from one indie label to the next for its two previous full-lengths before choosing NYC's hip indie label Jetset Records-whose artists include Mogwai, Black Box Recorder, Firewater and The Jesus Lizard-to release their new album. Wareham says he has no rules about whether it's better to work with an indie or a major label, although he's glad he no longer has to deal with the distraction of being without a home. "I've been on two indie labels in the past that went bankrupt owing money to the band (once with Galaxie 500 and once with Luna), so bad things can happen to you anywhere in the music business. We're happy with Jetset. We are a priority for them and it shows in the work they are doing for us."
Likewise, it shows in the work that Luna is doing for Jetset. There are high hopes for Romantica and the success of this tour, especially coming off of a surprisingly rewarding tour in support of the live album. "I hope people enjoy themselves. I hope that I enjoy myself. I hope the bus doesn't break down," jokes Wareham. "We're gonna set the place on fire. Not literally, though."
Luna is currently touring in support of Romantica, sharing dates with British noise-experimentalist Sonic Boom (formerly of Spacemen 3, Spectrum and Experimental Audio Research). Several dates on the tour find Luna double dipping with free in-store appearances in the afternoons.
To cap off this article, as a bonus, Dean Wareham shares his current obsessions with LAS.
Favorite pair of shoes: Shoes get uglier and uglier. I like wingtips.
Recent listening: My Morning Jacket, Bernard Fleischmann and Notwist.
Recent reading: A terrible, mean-spirited, trashy biography of Mick Jagger.
Favorite thing about NYC: Grand Central Station.
Favorite still-active NYC band: The Strokes.
Favorite Luna or Galaxie 500 record: Luna's Romantica and Penthouse, Galaxie 500's Today.
Favorite self-penned: "Orange Peel" (off of Romantica). SEE ALSO: www.fuzzywuzzy.com
SEE ALSO: www.jetsetrecords.com
A former staff writer for LAS whom we like to call Diggles, Mr. Hoepker is currently laboring away on various music-based projects. He now works in academic publishing (ahem), but is perhaps still best known by his DJ moniker, The Noiseboy.
See other articles by Doug Hoepker.
» MEDIA DOWNLOADS
» GOT STICKERS?
--> Send an with $2 in PayPal funds to cover postage. Don't worry, we'll load you up with enough to cover your town. Then just be patient. They will arrive soon.