Elektra Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


It's hard not to lump Luna into the category of mood music. Their musicianship and attention to strong songwriting can hold up in most any listening environment. Still, it seems the best way to listen to Luna's music is in a friend's apartment, at around 2:30 in the morning, after many vodka tonics, and preferably in a big city. It's the one band that should have been included in the Lost in Translation soundtrack that wasn't.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Luna has unfairly been criticized for aping the Velvet Underground by elitist VU fans with nothing else better to do with their lives. The band barely made a ripple in the '90s, but their mix of bohemian listlessness and songs about excess (be it in love, material or pharmaceutical goods) perfectly captures the general mood of those who came of age in the '90s without the pretentiousness of grunge. And while it is true, you can't judge an album by its cover, the cover of Luna's album, Penthouse, sums up the album perfectly: elegant, excessive, out of focus and the potential of being a flat-out masterpiece.

Dean Wareham's spacey vocals have a way of working into your head after one or two listens. In the woozy "23 Minutes in Brussels," Wareham's chorus, "Say a prayer for you and me / say a prayer / tell me do you miss me?" may not have the complexity of a Thom Yorke or an Ani DiFranco, but damned if it doesn't linger after the track ends. Sean Eden's guitar work and Stanley Demenski's drumming stand out, but when they are complementing each other, as in the unexpected jam breakout in "Freakin' and Peakin'" - they're absolutely stunning.

Few bands have been able to straddle the line of being playful and being sinister. Many times, it seems that Wareham and company are too witty for their own good. Some lyrics are downright silly: "Nixon's in a coma / and I hope it's gonna last" or "You're out all night / chasing girlies / you're late for work / and you go home earlies." However, their chemistry is just enough there to make everything gel effortlessly, even in the cheesy cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie and Clyde."

Penthouse is arguably Luna's finest hour, even though all of their releases are about the same in terms of quality. The only edge that Penthouse has is its front-to-back cohesiveness. It's one of those few albums in recent memory that actually justifies the label "album." Check into Penthouse -- you'll find it difficult to check out.

Rating: A

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© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.