Romantic to some, maybe: "It's painful to observe him looking at your curls/It's sorry to be me, sad to be a churl." That's about as amorous as Luna front man Dean Wareham gets on Romantica, his band's sixth album of shimmering, downbeat guitar-pop. If you're familiar with the detached personality Wareham's advanced in his music--a strange combination of standoffish remove and anxious overattention--you know that lines like that are actually a real accomplishment for the guy, and Romantica's full of them: "When candles light themselves and the air turns creamy/Why not take a photograph? You look so dreamy"; "Salt and pepper squid and Singapore noodles/I could look at your face for oodles and oodles"; "Do you know what it means to make a wish?/Because I love you but I'm sending you away." It's the kind of approach that could make you hate a younger band--the Get Up Kids, say--but works perfectly within the context of Luna's mellow choogle, which is as familiar and as improbably distinctive as it's ever been here. The familiarity works because it feels like John Cusack finally getting up the nerve to ask out that girl; the distinctiveness is surprising because who else hasn't tried to be the Velvet Underground, and for as long? Wareham's just making his big move in these songs, in a rumpled suit he borrowed from his big brother, his icy Boston/New York sangfroid pooling in little puddles around his feet, melted by the tropical coziness of the album's beachside tableau and by all those lines about some "goddess of shadow, lipstick and scent." Only it's not his big move, and the suit's his, and the sangfroid can refreeze by the time he gets home. To whom is this not romantic?
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Mikael Wood