Luna, Romantica (2002)

It's safe to say that anyone who owns hundreds of CDs has harboured the occasional fantasy of being in a rock band. Sure, you'd have trouble fitting those countless hours in the tour bus playing Scrabble with roadies into your busy schedule of staring aimlessly at a screen and clenching your buttocks in time to the mp3s playing over your headphones, but deep down inside you'd just love to try, because the pay-off would be all those precious minutes standing onstage looking and sounding cool.

But which band? Choose carefully, now: aim too big, and you'll be so lost on that giant stadium stage that no-one will see how cool you look; too small, and you'll be cool to a global audience of three, if you count your grandmother—and she's no authority.

But go ahead and pick U2, or Radiohead, or whatever the band du jour is du jour. Pick whoever you want. Because I'm picking Luna.

Luna have it all: line of descent from pretentious 1980s arty band Galaxie 500; Kiwi-born lead singer (Flying Nun/Nil Fun by association) with unremarkable but inoffensive voice; instantly recognisable electric guitar sound that doesn't sound sub-metal; back-catalogue stuffed full of lilting and rocking songs tailor-made for late-night back-room jams; and at least two of the best albums of the 1990s under their belts. Albums that give you a quiet anticipatory thrill every time you drop them into the black tray.

The only problem is that those albums, Lunapark and Bewitched, came out a good few years ago now, and later ones have struggled to recapture their magic. Well, that's a little unfair: they've been fine—but not Fine. To be honest, Luna have been sounding increasingly down-beat lately, even for a post-pretentious arty bunch of late-night back-room guitaristes.

Whether this prompted their long-time record company to give them the flick I don't know, but it was a bit of a worry to turn over their new CD Romantica and see that it was the product of an obscure indie label. Was this the beginning of the end?

NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO. Because Romantica is their finest hour since Bewitched. It's everything Luna should be, and then some: simple melodies that even a false-starting neophyte can play in the background, while leaving Sean and Dean to take care of the dazzling lead breaks; 'bah bah bahs' that even a buttock-clenching stage-frightened supporting vocalist can handle; and lyrics that match their wittiest, goofiest, cooliest bestest:

salt and pepper squid
and singapore noodles
I could look at your face
for oodles and oodles

Romantica is the sound of 'a million, a billion, a trillion stars'; it's 'Weird and Woozy', 'Black Champagne': if I had to do it all again/I wouldn't/throw it all away/throw it all away. Venetian blinds are slicing up the sun/and the buttons in my mind have come undone...

From the moment I dropped Romantica into the black tray and pressed play, that 1990s glow of happiness was back, and suddenly I wanted to be in a band again. This band. Of course.

First published at Records Ad Nauseam, 13 May 2002.


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