My first thought of this record is that it has a really bad cover. A really crude photo-montage showing all the members of the band in corny rock star poses with a sort of nauseatingly orange computer generated sunset behind them. Surely this is the sort of thing you’d expect from some dreadful 80s prog rock outfit, not quietly cool art-rock veterans like Luna? So, you assume, the cover is misleading. Except it isn’t. Which is very disappointing.
This is, as the title so subtly suggests, a live album, made up from two shows in New York and LA in which Luna play their .. well, not hits exactly .. best loved songs maybe, to a polite and worshipful audience.
Lyrically, the most immediate reference point is probably Lou Reed, who would probably be at home singing any of Luna main man Sean Eden’s introspective tales of doomed urban romance, miserable drunken nights, yuppies declaring undying love for each other in late-night subway trains and other things of that nature.
Musically too, there’s more than a touch of the Velvet Underground’s trademark droning present, though in an all too sanitised form. You get the feeling that whilst the VU existed on heroin and squatting, Luna prefer red wine and have a steady job in the city.
Their style is a bit more varied than this would suggest though, taking frequent trips to the great outdoors with a kind of laid back country style familiar to fans of Grand Drive, and even sounding a wee bit Neil Young from time to time.
To finish the parade of influences, Luna’s studio albums have earned comparison’s to Mercury Rev, and indeed, most of their songs follow a pretty similar pattern to those on Deserters Songs, beginning with an almost unbelievably beautiful melody and some softly delivered simple but effective lyrics before descending into a semi-psychedelic wig out of swirling bits of tune and unusual instrumentation. Or that’s the theory anyway, and in the studio it works very well.
Eden is a masterful songwriter who effortlessly manages to reconstruct the right atmosphere and emotion demanded by the songs’ subject matter, and consistently comes up with brilliantly simple melodies and pop hooks which render his tunes listenable, likeable and, well, damn good basically.
What cripples this album, however, is the live format and the bands gross self-indulgence. While Luna’s studio albums are filled with impeccably chosen extra instruments, electronic elements and top notch production techniques which keep their songs interesting throughout, here they’re stripped down to a bog standard four piece guitar band, but still insist on trying to capture the grand scale of their records, which turns out to be a big mistake. The average song length on this album is about 5 or 6 minutes, and a great deal of it is instrumental. And, without any keyboards, cellos, flutes or whatever, this inevitably boils down to boring chorus repeats and guitar solos. Excessively long guitar solos. Sean Eden obviously considers himself a bit of a maestro, and with uncritical support from the audience he often bangs on long after the song has come to it’s natural conclusion. And as all these tunes are slow or mid tempo, we’re talking solos of the Eric Clapton variety rather than the Jimi Hendrix variety. Yes, that bad. If you played this to the sinister cabal who decide what music is cool, they’d be forced to hang their heads and downgrade Luna from ‘Lo-Fi visionaries’ to ‘boring old buggers’.
And the whole thing sounds so safe, so light, so inoffensive. In fact, in places it’s on the verge of total MOR. My mum could probably play this at a dinner party and no one would even notice it. Basically, this album makes Luna sound like the yuppie equivalent of Oasis, capable of making truly wonderful music but far too arrogant and uninspired to ever really love. This is a tragically misleading impression and hopefully not a sign of things to come.
Luna are a unique band, but if you want to hear them at their best, avoid this like the plague and get a copy of their criminally underrated last record, 'Days of our Night'. That’s the one that’ll inspire you.
6Ben Haggar's Score