Following on the heels of its critically acclaimed spring effort Romantica
, Luna returns with its second release in six months -- a sprightly move for a band famous for foot-dragging tempos. Lauded for its winking in-concert covers, Luna includes a pair of surprisingly straight-faced renditions on the Striking
EP: the Rolling Stones' "Waiting on a Friend" and Kraftwerk's "Neon Lights." The Stones tune suits frontman Dean Wareham's detached falsetto, though he quickly slips back into full-blown laconic mode on the Kraftwerk ditty. Better is the irresistible "Astronaut," bolstered by honeybee backing vocals courtesy of Britta Phillips.
The addition of Phillips -- who starred alongside Justine Bateman and Julia Roberts in the pre-riot-grrrl flick Satisfaction -- is the best thing to happen to Luna in some time. Her bass skills are competent, but it's her auxiliary crooning that launches Luna into the stratosphere. Still, Luna remains Wareham's private dope show, and he colors Striking with eerie guitar strains and bone-dry lyrics that skirt the borders of absurdity. It all works, and Luna's second effort in less than a year feels as oddly refreshing as its first.