Stranded In Stereo: My Formative Years: "The Days of Our Nights" by Luna, 1999

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Formative Years: "The Days of Our Nights" by Luna, 1999

Second Interaction with an Idol*

I recently finished reading Black Postcards, the memoirs of one Michael Dean Wareham. Yeah, yeah, most people just know him as Dean Wareham: one time front man for such pivotal bands like Galaxie 500, Luna, and currently one half of the musical (and romantic) duo, Dean & Britta. In the book, he tells his tale of coming to America from New Zealand as a child. Going to school in the heart of New York City, and coming here to Boston continue his studies at Harvard. And, yeah he also talks about being in bands and giving his beloved field of industry the ole what for.

When I was 15, Luna had released their fifth album, The Days Of Our Nights. One of my usual outlets for new music was The Sunday News, a show that, up until the end of 2007, was hosted and put together by my local hero, Mr. Bill Hanson. At this point in my life, I already discovered Galaxie 500 thanks to the Dandy Warhols citing them as an influence. I came across that Ryko box set with the entire catalog in it in Columbia for less than $25 and just bet the farm and was pleasantly surprised. Hanson had identified the number he was playing as Luna’s “Dear Diary,” the lead off track from Days. If I remember correctly, I was sitting on the floor in my brother’s room, playing N64 or something to that effect, when I had first heard those guitar chords strum, before Wareham’s trademark warble came in to the mix.

“I saw that girl again today, reading silly magazines.”

His vocals, like anyone else’s over time, had changed. Not too drastically I don’t think; only having heard the complete Galaxie 500 catalog at the point in my life, I was use to Wareham’s vocals being doused in reverb, strained at times on a song like “Snowstorm,” muddied in the mix. It was surprising to hear him with a deeper vocal tone, almost speaking the verses, but he went back to more familiar territory with the “ba ba’s” that lead in to forced singing of the chorus.

"Dear Diary" & "Hello Little One" on Later, 1999:

I don’t remember buying the album any more, I just knew I had it in my hands eventually. “Superfreaky Memories” always sticks out as the song that captivated me then; the huge drum sounds (which were just encompassed in reverb) along with the strings and vocals didn’t sound so superfreaky as much as they sounded futuristic.

The second half of that record had an off pace, with a song that starts off sounding like the theme song to Sex & The City (the cheekily titled “U.S. Out Of My Pants!”) and the strange slow number in German (“The Slow Song”). But it kicked off perfectly with “Math Wiz”. I had put this record on a few weeks ago, and “Math Wiz” still gives me chills with how it goes. It just starts off, right in the song: no counts, no building intro, just – boom – there you are, in the middle of the song. The shimmering guitars were just a breath of fresh air after the stark “Memories” right before it. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about this album, the only thing anyone should know about it, is the album’s closing cut, Luna’s drowsy take on “Sweet Child O’Mine.” The band had always done many a cover, putting their dream pop touch on songs from Donovan, Beat Happening, The Rolling Stones, and others, but this one always stuck with me. Even Sean Eden’s muted but not replication of Slash’s infamous lead guitar melody.

Last week, Wareham made a few appearances in Boston, reading from Black Postcards, playing a few songs with Luna bassist turned wife Britta Phillips. Afterwards he let us know to come say hi and he’d sign our copies of the just published memoir. I was already three quarters of the way through it, and had a plan to call him out for naming Days his least favorite Luna record, calling it “a bloated dud with two or three songs” on it. And when it came my turn, we greeted and exchanged names, and I had told him of my quarrel.

“Is that your favorite album?” he asked me with great enthusiasm, amidst the hints of a New Zealand accent that still penetrated his speak from time to time. I had quickly said no, and that it was just my introduction to Luna for fear that an idol of mine was going to tear me a new one for citing that bloated dud of an album as the highpoint of their career. As he handed my book back to me, he let me in on a little secret.

“My favorite album changes all the time,” he said. “I used to hate Lunapark, but I listened to it the other day and now it’s my favorite.”

I guess I should’ve just been up front with him.

"Blue Thunder," from the Lizard Lounge last week

*I had actually first met Wareham on Luna’s farewell tour, the only time I got to see them live, in November of 2004. He signed my copy of Rendezvous, not once, but twice sort of. After signing it with a pen, he eventually got a hold of a sharpie. “I will sign this – in full,” he said sitting on the stage after the set that night. No, I didn’t mention this to him last week, either.

Buy: The Days of Our Nights [Here] // Buy: Black Postcards [Here]


Joe said...

So far this is my favorite album of theirs. I look across the Internet and I'm pretty surprised at how commonly it's dismissed and how deeply its biggest detractors hate it.

I know it's a year old but I loved this entry. I have far too many memories of playing SNES/N64 while listening to music, so this felt weirdly familiar to read.

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