Going back to another idea I’ve toyed with here in past Postcards From Page Side columns, today I want to dig into the my past, and the world of now defunct bands that I grew up loving, and want to introduce to you. Instead of my typical “jamband,” I instead turn to the first “indie” or “alternative” band, besides the mainstream acts of the early nineties, that caught my ear: Luna.
Having heard a friend play a tune in a bar last week on the internet jukebox, I was inspired to re-buy 12 albums of the group’s from iTunes this weekend, and have been spinning their entire catalogue on a heavy rotation non-stop ever since. Coming from the Latin word for the Moon, the name Luna itself represents a natural satellite that not only rotates the earth, but also the insides of my mind and my visions and late-night memories of New York City.
Described by Rolling Stone as “the best band you’ve never heard of,” that certainly is how I feel a few times a year when I tear through the band’s catalogue and have a renaissance of mid-’90s Velvet Underground-esque sounds, before their final show in 2005. I’ve always associated Luna with a slightly cleaner and more romanticized lyrical version of the Velvet Underground, and that now makes sense after I learned they opened for them on their 1993 European summer tour. As their Wikipedia page also states (and I feel NAILS their sound to a ): “Luna combined intricate guitar work, traditional rock rhythms and poetic lyrics to elegantly capture the romance of the late night.”
Founded by front-man and guitarist Dean Wareham in 1991 after quitting Galaxie 500, the band shifted lineups a few times before settling upon the lineup of Justin Harwood (bass), Sean Eden (guitar) and Stanley Demeski (drums), that defined Luna for the better part of the ’90s. (Lee Wall eventually replaced Demeski on drums in ’97 and Britta Phillips – Wareham’s future wife – replaced Harwood on bass in ’99). Touring under the radar throughout most of their career and based out of New York City, Luna provided a soundtrack that romanticized and captured the beautiful underbelly and attitude of the darker parts of New York life.
From the unofficial debut of Lunapark (1992) to Bewitched (1994) or one of the most quintessential albums of the ’90s, Penthouse (1995), Luna managed to stay true to their craft and message, while capturing a one-of-a-kind sound that still rings in my ears to this day. The other things about their albums is that they truly are all masterpieces in their own right. I often start with the first track, hit play and drift off into another world of consciousness, all without ever skipping a single track, a true sign of a great album in my book – and I seemingly do it with every one of Luna’s recordings!
I was lucky enough to see them twice in the late ’90s and early ’00s, one show at Irving Plaza really sticks out in my mind of the best shows of the era. The true musicianship and sense that this band was from the toughest city on the planet, and had found their own little niche in it was a refreshing breath of inspiration that still sticks with me today, long after the band is gone.
And what better way to see what I am talking about than to hear it for yourself? Well, please enjoy this playlist I have put together featuring some of Luna’s classic tracks. Kicking off with the one-two combo that starts Bewitched, California All the Way and Tiger Lily, you immediately are drawn in by the warm, yet floaty and disconnected vocals of Wareham, amidst screaming guitars and a melody as sweet as sugar, seemingly mixed with a tinge of heroin. 23 Minutes in Brussels – one of my go-to tunes by this band – really kicks things up a notch before we are hit sideways by the whammy-bar guitar lines in Sideshow by the Seashore.
Tossing in their first true single, the catchy This Time Around, and a few choice covers in Waiting on a Friend and Bonnie and Clyde, the mix really blasts into the stratosphere — and around the Lunar Moon — with the climax of Freakin’ and Peakin’, before the immediate chill-down track of Sleeping Pill, appropriately titled after a long night in the darkness of New York City with Wareham and company.
Feel free to check out more for yourself at:
I hope you enjoy!