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splendid > reviews > 10/10/2002
Luna
Luna
Close Cover Before Striking EP
Jetset


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Astronaut"

Buy me now
Romantica, released earlier this year, was a critical and commercial success, so it's no surprise that Jetset Records are eager to keep the fires burning with a handful of new songs. Some of these tunes -- five originals, two covers -- are brand new, while others are leftovers from the Romantica sessions, though it's not clear which songs are which. Six of the seven songs, including the band's versions of the Stones' "Waiting On A Friend" and Kraftwerk's "Neon Lights" (a pair of tunes that nicely betray the scope of Luna frontman Dean Wareham's tastes), are understated, melodic mid-tempo pieces. They're pleasant, but never quite as engrossing as Romantica's carefully-picked material. "Teenage Lightning" distinguishes itself by pairing a textbook laconic Wareham drawl with syrupy-sweet slide guitar and squeezebox, and the drum-machine-assisted instrumental "Drunken Whistler" would've been an album standout if the band had left room for vocals among the keening, bristling guitar tracks. As for the covers, "Waiting On A Friend" gets a predictably slowed-down interpretation, while "Neon Lights" leans heavily on syncopated rhythms from the bass, drums and rhythm guitar as a sidelong acknowledgement of its electronic origins.

The song that breaks the mold is also the album's best moment. "Astronaut", which opens the disc, strays so far from Luna's typical sound that including it on Romantica would have fatally diffused the album's impact. It rocks, though. Basically, "Astronaut" indulges Dean Wareham's fondness for New Order in high style; it's a fast-paced, ultra-melodic piece in which bassist Britta Phillips pulls off a surprisingly credible Peter Hook impersonation, as well as sharing vocals with Wareham, while guitarist Sean Eden (and/or Wareham) nails a melody midway between Power, Corruption and Lies and Low-Life. A bowed string sample -- clean 64th notes that, based on their throatiness, might have come from an upright bass -- adds texture to the rhythm line, and in the process creates the illusion of dizzying speed. It's a giddy, gorgeous piece that will make you wish Luna stepped outside their formula more often.

Videos of "Lovedust" and "1995" round out the EP -- but honestly, unless you're soulless enough to dismiss "Astronaut" as derivative, you'll think of everything from "Waiting On A Friend" onward as bonus material.



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