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The Days of Our Nights

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: The Days of Our Nights

Artist: Luna
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: October 1999

Review by MarkR
3½ stars out of 4

Wanting to be the Velvet Underground was not a new idea back when Cambridge, Mass.-based Galaxie 500 started meandering through their too-long, under-executed exercises in the late ‘80s, but Dean Wareham’s trio of Harvard misfits played the part well. You have the time for that sort of thing when you’re overeducated and unemployable. When he broke up the band and moved to the City to front his post-pop supergroup Luna (with ex-Feelies drummer Stanley Demeski and former Chills bassist Justin Harwood), however, Wareham decided that his contribution to the legacy of laconic New York cool would be an approachable self-deprecation and better arrangements.

That Luna ever found itself signed to a major-label is pretty astonishing; it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the suits at Elektra when the group’s increasingly brilliant first three albums stiffed commercially. Peaking with 1995’s PENTHOUSE, Wareham learned to effectively tweak the occasional smile, cracking his band’s brand of thick-lidded guitar sophistication into little splinters of understated pop genius. But understated pop genius doesn’t often accommodate hit singles: By ‘97’s PUP TENT, the band were looking to drum loops and studio artifice to facilitate their atmospheric milieu.

Didn’t work, and though several of PUP TENT’s songs stood out as among Luna’s best (“Bobby Peru,” “City Kitty”), Elektra still held out for that one big hit. What they got instead was a dark, shimmering throwback, THE DAYS OF OUR NIGHTS. After scheduling a May ’99 release, Elektra put the kibosh on the band in April; worse, they had already sent out media advances of the album, tantamount to entreating, “Listen to this crap -- that’s why we dropped ‘em.”

But, again, one wonders what the label expected. (“Where’s that Missy Elliott duet we requested!?”) Intelligent drinking music for adults not afraid to stare into the big questions -- nor in denial as their lives unravel in a manner inconsistent with the idealistic aspirations of youth -- was what they got. If they can’t find an audience for this stuff, it’s their own fault.

“I’m sticking to my story,” Wareham sings astride a bossa nova box-beat on “4000 Ways.” “It’s all that I have left.” “Hello Little One” finds him admitting, “I lost my silver spoon … Cool lips to the bottle / To hell with everyone,” before guitarist Sean Eden rips into one of his clever lead responses. “Superfreaky Memories” ponders, “Now the years are rolling by / And you don’t get any wiser,” while cataloging recollections of bygone carryings-on.

Far from maudlin solipsism, however, THE DAYS OF OUR NIGHTS is more an inebriated testimonial to getting through life, set to achingly superb guitar playing. Call them pop laments from educated white boys who can’t -- or have the dignity not to -- play the blues: Songs like “Math Wiz” (“A 12-year-old math wiz came to me in a dream / He had all the answers, which he kept to himself”) reach out to the identifiable aging know-it-all not so assured anymore.

Maybe “The Slow Song” accomplishes little more than proving that, yes, Wareham can sing a whole song in German (I think), but Luna close the album with a straight, country-inflected cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine (pre-dating Sheryl Crow’s), and the world makes sense, if just for the moment. Thankfully, Jericho Records, brainchild of Smiths producer John Porter and ex-Silvertone Records exec Andrew Lauder -- the guy who signed Elvis Costello and the Stone Roses -- felt that way too.



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