Film / Video Reviews
Luna CD and DVD reviewed [Beggar's Banquet; Rhino]
Jan 17, 2007, 15:35
Whenever I listen to Luna, I feel as if I'm slumming in reverse. Their ultra-chic New York City world of taxicabs and Harvard educations was always a fun world for a non-yuppie to inhabit. It didn't hurt that the music—which, critics will tell you, failed to progress very much during the band's thirteen years—was unique and distinctive, and was, by and large, good listening. The Best of Luna catalogs some of the band's best material, although the omission of their cover of “Season of the Witch” is unforgivable. Presented as such on this posthumous greatest hits package, Luna's music ages surprisingly well. Early singles like “Slide” and “California (All The Way)” still retain their serpentine charm, and songs from later, less critically acclaimed albums like Pup Tent and The Days of Our Nights hold up just as well, with the latter's “Superfreaky Memories” a near-uppity highlight...
Scenes from Tell Me Do You Miss Me, the DVD documenting the end of the band, are so depressing, they could be cut into Metallica's “One” video in place of the footage from Johnny Got His Gun and you'd be hard pressed to notice. The film is an excellent document of a band in serious personal, if not creative, decline. If Guided By Voices' farewell DVD was a keg party, Luna's is a funeral, and thus finds much more in common with more bleak film biographies, such as Wilco's pathos-laden I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, or Radiohead's ode to the mundane, Meeting People Is Easy. The tedium and harsh fiscal realities of touring presented onscreen will be no surprise to anyone who's ever toured the United States in a van.
The infighting the band struggles with is only escalated by the hopelessness the band feels in the face of an entirely too fickle and indifferent rock community. Though frontman Dean Wareham's sensitive side occasionally peers out when he's dealing with his young son, or when tearing up backstage before the final Luna performance, his emotional detachment is palpable in hotel room chats with journalists, and pretty much everywhere else. The band's laconic veneer is stripped away as the band's breakup soon becomes analogous to the loss of their youth. Long shots of the band arguing over trivial things (witness the long argument over which Texas city guitarist Sean Eden vomited in on a previous tour) and the band not speaking on planes, trains, backstage, and generally viewing each other with quiet disdain makes for gripping, if difficult viewing. Eden emerges as the token â€˜difficult' one, a foil to Wareham's tortured artist persona (the Jay Bennet to Wareham's Jeff Tweedy in I Am Trying To Break Your Heart) though I can't help thinking that he might have fared better in a band less passive-aggressive than Luna.
For bands, Tell Me Do You Miss Me may hit close to home, and for that reason, that's exactly why it is a startlingly accurate and naked glimpse into faded glory, and essential viewing for Luna fans and non-Luna fans alike. [Beggar's Banquet; Rhino]
-James Jackson Toth
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