THE DAYS OF OUR NIGHTS(JERICHO/SIRE)

LUNA 

THE DAYS OF OUR NIGHTS(JERICHO/SIRE)

Are Europeans still more sophisticated than Americans? Yes. The latest exhibit: European radio actually plays Luna, the low-key supergroup composed of former members of even less commercially noted bands (Galaxie 500, the Go-Betweens, and so on.). Of course, its recent The Days of Our Nights had a five-month head start abroad, following Elektra's sacking of the band last spring. The music press wrote it up and decried the loss of the then-forthcoming record, then sold their promo copies on eBay for tidy profits to the dozen or so hardcore fans in the states.

Turns out Days was worth the wait, if not worth whatever extra cash those suckers parceled out. Luna makes spacy pop but plays it tightly; the wispy echo of the band's sound actually strengthens until the songs resonate. Leader Dean Wareham's guitar emerges from his songs' ether like the doleful cries of an inmate in a padded cell -- distant, distressed, a little fuzzy, but urgent. And an appropriately cracked quality remains evident in Wareham's song titles (which include "U.S.A. Out of My Pants"), even if his lyrics are more downcast and foreboding than usual. ("The Slow Song" is sung in distracted German, as though Nico's ghost had possessed Wareham.)

That's saying something, considering that the distance in Wareham's writing and the group's eerily calm playing already make for an acquired taste. But Days is Luna's most cohesive, even charming, disc. Never more so than the band's cover of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine," which trades the "Where do we go now" refrains for pensive atmosphere and, for the first time on a Luna record, emotion. Another major label boner, letting this one go.

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