Culture Rover

#30 - Goodnight, Moon

The band Luna, whose recordings and concerts floated through the actual and imaginative lives of my twenties in New York City, are on their final tour.

Their recent Chicago appearance found the band sounding great. The music is descended from the Velvet Underground. Blah, blah, blah. Insert typical Luna music review.

Yes, it's true. Dean Wareham updates Lou Reed's sardonic but affectionate throwaway-brilliant insights and sly observations, sometimes naughty and hinting at the forbidden, sometimes waxing nostalgic and pathetic; he uses the same mix of avant-garde poetic collage and amateurish Tin Pan Alley/doo-wop rock bad rhymes-turned-good; they're made moving and evocative through just the right adenoidal, half-smile delivery-with-a-wink.

Each song is like a short experimental film, a cinematic glimpse of characters caught up in something seedy or lovable, faux-naive or deeply guilty, shyly awkward or flauntingly coy.

And Luna's twin guitar textures are all Velvety: expanding and contracting, muttering and roaring, sighing and screaming, making endless conversation on the beauty of electricity. (It really is a pleasure to be alive in the age of the electric guitar -- what amazing sounds never before created or heard!)

Luna's members are also expert practitioners of the fundamental rock and roll dynamic: play three or four chords, a few good, little riffs, and sing a little, hum-able, sing-song melody; get louder then get softer then get louder again; leave space, explode, recede back into space again; add an occasional flatted seventh chord or suspended chord. It's so simple, yet it works like a charm.

Beyond the group's ultimate refinement of rock's Velvet bag of simple tricks, Luna's last concert tour also made me think about the power of music not only to signify memories, but also the loss of memories. Music, after all, not only preserves time in rhythm and groove, it marks the passing of time.

For this listener, Luna's music stirs up all sorts of feelings that I thought had settled into sediment. This is the core of nostalgia, I suppose, which is a mood in which we apprehend our forgetting in order to be able to remember again.

As a kind of meditative sonic netting in which we wrap ourselves, music allows access to this process by which we feel time slipping away, falling through the cracks, escaping our grasp, receding deep into our psyches even as we are able to pull bits of it back, sift through our archeological findings in search of ourselves, perceive what we have and have not become before we collapse back into the present -- the future remaining silent, without a net.

Bon soir, Luna. Goodnight, moon.

19 November 2004

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