Out There

Luna

Luna
The Days of Our Nights
(Jericho/Sire)

Galaxie 500 fetishists loved that extant band because it evoked the Velvet Underground without, ya know, all that noise and shit getting in the way -- and, come to think of it, all those notes. Trying to find a song on a G500 disc was like trying to find a knish at communion, unless your idea of a "song" is a two-note drone that bleeds from side one to side two; nothing against that outfit, but a best-of that isn't a CD single is a waste of space. Luna, of course, was where Dean Wareham went "pop," insofar as he added those elusive third and fourth notes and started singing instead of just exhaling. Still, it's all about the, er, mood with this band: There are perhaps a handful of truly memorable melodies to be found among Luna's back catalog, but the rest come and go, lost among the rhythms that more often than not sound like the rustling of leaves beneath a dead-gray winter sky. Which is, of course, the point.

The Days of Our Nights picks up where its predecessors left off, mid-nap. Wareham and his bandmates -- Lee Hall on drums, Justin Harwood on bass and mellotron and assorted other instruments, Sean Eden on guitar -- forever sound like wanna-be rockers turning it down to keep from waking neighbors behind paper-thin walls. Every so often, Wareham's guitars blurt out from behind the cone of silence; at those moments ("Seven Steps to Satan," "Math Wiz," "U.S. Out of My Pants!"), he sounds like a club scout who craves the action of the arena, dying to shuck the shackles of his own muted past. But like the good VU disciples they remain (indeed, moments of this disc, like the rest of Luna's back catalog, sound like outtakes from a VU tribute disc), Luna keeps it sleepy and sublime, substituting only non sequiturs ("The Slow Song" is performed entirely in German) for insight. And that's when you can make out the words -- or when you care to struggle to find them, which is hardly the issue. Might as well be instrumentals, with Wareham moaning every now and then for effect, since that's all it is anyway.

But as this record will be remembered solely for one song, The Days of Our Nights is worth owning for, yes, its cover of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine." It neither betrays nor mocks the original; it's not a parody, but an interpretation that shoves aside Axl's histrionics and finds, deep beneath the surface, poignant and pungent sincerity. From the opening notes, slowed down and toned down until they sound like something only imagined, to the way Wareham delivers those familiar words in his whispered, whiny rasp ("Now and then when I see her face/It takes me away to that special place"), it's damn near a perfect song -- heartbreaking, even. Who knew? image

Robert Wilonsky

 
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