The Days of Our Nights
Someone in ad land saw the commercial viability of Luna's Dean Wareham, at least in his previous incarnation as the frontman for Galaxie 500: Late last year, the band joined Curtis Mayfield as a soundtrack provider for a national car commercial. Meanwhile, middle management at Elektra -- the label that released each of Luna's four previous full-lengths -- was busy photocopying the band's walking papers just before Days was to be released. Go figure.
Whatever Elektra's motives -- could it have had something to do with the fact that it had been gobbled like a California roll by the Universal Music Group? -- the quality of Days probably wasn't among them. Produced by Paul Kimble of Grant Lee Buffalo fame (who also guests on guitar, mellatron, piano and backing vocals throughout), the album proves that Wareham hasn't lost his affinity for -- or his ability to craft -- ethereal, effervescent pop, a love affair that germinated with Galaxie's raw brilliance and has since become both more mellow and refined over time. Whereas Galaxie had a tendency to color outside of the lines, Luna has always been more careful to limit its digressions to the confines of each specific pattern. On Days, that approach results in a collection of tunes as pleasant as it is subversive -- at once a comfortable listen and an exercise in lush instrumentalism.
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Luna's muse has always been a muted one -- something that lingers, perhaps, on the other side of a frosted window, just out of reach or clear comprehension. Maybe that's why Justin Hartwood winds up sticking his trumpets, his spider-web guitars and his various stringed instruments in the nooks and crannies of each song. Or why Wareham can get away with never really revealing what he's up to lyrically. Whether he's deadpanning choruses about his "Superfreaky Memories" or making appeals to nonexistent audiences ("Listeners of the future, come on and help me quick," he pleads on "Four Thousand Days"), he sounds both detached and earnest, leaving us to wonder if he's being obtuse and vulnerable or simply a smartass. A cover of "Sweet Child o' Mine" (recorded months before Sheryl Crow offered her own variation), which closes the disc, only complicates matters: It's lovingly rendered, but in a way that would likely make Axl's transfused blood boil. Yet when Wareham proclaims on "Seven Steps to Satan" that "inside my head it's raining," it sounds more like an observation than a non sequitur. Maybe it is. Rain, after all, makes things grow, and on Days of Our Nights, Luna has once again done so. -- Laura Bond