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GET EDUCATED: New Luna covers LP gives new shine to lost gems

Double Feature Records
First new Luna record in over a dozen years.
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ALBUM REVIEW: A Sentimental Education by Luna (Double Feature Records) 2017

As Luna singer/guitarist Dean Wareham sings a cover of Bob Dylan’s song “Most of the Time,” I could swear that the New Zealander is channeling the spirit of Lou Reed.

And that would fit, with Wareham’s notable Kiwi-via-NYC vocal style, his echo-y guitar style (alongside Sean “I Didn’t Wave the Flag of Doubt” Eden) and the song’s subject matter about a man who is plagued with sadness and regret. A fine song choice for a band often compared to the Velvet Underground, as well as being a classy rock band that has been gone far too long.

A little history: Luna (Wareham, Eden, drummer Lee Wall and bassist/keyboardist Britta Phillips) emerged in the early 1990’s after Wareham’s earlier band, Galaxie 500, broke up. Initially, Wareham played alongside Feelies drummer Stanley Demeski and Chills bassist and fellow New Zealander Justin Harwood.

It would take a few years for the final lineup to gel. But once that happened, Luna really, really worked and recorded some fantastic records (1997’s Pup Tent being my favorite) and concluding in 2004 with Rendezvous, which was followed by a band biopic – Tell Me Do You Miss Me – which showed the band putting a halt to things at the conclusion of their 2005 tour.

Wareham and his partner Phillips continued as “Dean & Britta” and Wareham wrote a very compelling memoir – focusing on his music and dabbling in Trotskyist politics, among other things – Black Postcards. Wareham even dipped his toe into acting here and there. 

But by 2014-15, Luna fever was in the air, and Wareham announced the band was getting back together, Blues Brothers-style, and with some touring under their belt once again (please watch the aforementioned band biopic for more on what it’s like to be in a touring van in Europe with these characters – especially the hilarious, quoteworthy Canadian Sean Eden).

So, what did Luna do to remind music listeners what they are all about? Record a bunch of covers – obscure ones at that -  like that Dylan tune (great bass lines from Phillips), a Cure song (“Fire in Cairo”),  a weird Rolling Stones song called “(Walkin’ Thru’ the ) Sleepy City,” a forgotten, mid-60’s nugget that Mick and Keef barely remember (Wareham, btw, is a big Brian Jones fan, as are we), David Bowie’s early, Space Oddity-era number “Letter to Hermione.” That song has Wareham reaching some higher notes, as Wall does his subdued martial drumming thing, complete with mallets on cymbals. This is one of my favorites on the record.

There are some unexpected nuggets here. Speaking of Lou Reed and Velvet Undergound, not only do we get Doug Yule’s “Friends,” a 1973, post-Reed VU song on the overlooked Squeeze LP, and “Gin,” a song Willie “Loco” Alexander, who briefly played in that latter-day version of the Underground, recorded on his 1982 solo record Solo Loco. That one is “Gin.”

Early Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer wrote “One Together,” a song that appeared on the Mac’s breezy/folksy Kiln House record in 1970. From that same era, we also get the beautifully-rendered cover of the 1969 Yes song “Sweetness,” which had appeared on the prog-rock band’s debut.

New York band Mink DeVille’s “Let Me Dream If I Want To” provides Luna a chance to rock out a bit on what is mostly a pretty relaxed and loving affair.

Rounding out A Sentimental Education is a cover of Mercury Rev’s 1991 song “Car Wash Hair,” which had appeared as a hidden track on their debut, Yerself Is Steam, written by vocalist Jonathan Donahue, who also sings backup here, along with guitars by Rev guitarist Grasshopper. The two bands have been friends for years and covering this particular song was quite a revelation for me, having long liked Mercury Rev’s dreamy, shoegazy weirdness. 

As an added bonus, Luna also includes an EP titled A Place of Greater Safety, featuring six original instrumental songs, including "Captain Pentagon" and "Ides of March of the Trolls." A true gift from a great band. And it's just our luck, gang, Luna is extending their tour schedule into the spring of 2018, with an April stop at the Granada Theater in Dallas. Go here for more information about Luna's touring in the coming year.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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