Best tunes of 2002: #15 Luna “Renee is crying”

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I first heard Luna in 1995. Their sophomore album, “Bewitched”, was loaned to me by my neighbour in university residence, Josh, who is better known in our circle of friends as Good Josh (as opposed to Bad Josh), but that’s another story. I was flipping through his CD collection one day*, he noted me looking at the album cover with interest, and highly recommended I give it a listen.

Luna has been one of my favourite bands ever since. I continued to listen to them long after I graduated, entered the adult workforce, moved away to Ottawa from Toronto, and gradually began to grow apart from most of my university friends. In fact, the last time I saw many of them, including Good Josh, was one weekend in 2002, when I took a Greyhound bus to Peterborough. A bunch of these friends were living there so the town was chosen as a central point to gather together to meet up with our friend Mark, who was temporarily back from an ESL teaching job in Japan. I distinctly remember bringing a copy of the latest Luna album, “Romantica”, along to listen to on the bus. I also pulled it out at one point on the weekend to share with Good Josh because he mentioned that hadn’t listened to them in a very long time. I don’t exact remember if he thought much of the album but it has become one of my favourites out of all their discography and was one of my first ever purchases for my vinyl collection, way back back on Record Store Day 2012.

Luna was formed by Dean Wareham in 1991 when his first band, the legendary dream pop outfit, Galaxie 500, disbanded. It was considered somewhat of an indie supergroup at the time because he had managed to gather a past member each from The Chills (Justin Harwood) and The Feelies (Stanley Demeski). Seven full-length studio albums, a live album, as well as a handful of EPs were released under the Luna moniker before the group disbanded in 2005, though the lineup was quite different then than when they had formed. Almost a decade later, Luna reunited as the lineup of Wareham, Sean Eden, Lee Wall, and Britta Philips, and they have since released a new album, an EP, and have toured pretty consistently since.

“Renee is crying” is track six on “Romantica”, an album that seems to me a rejuvenation for the band. Much of that can possibly be attributed to it being the first album with new bassist, Britta Philips, who, for you trivia buffs out there, was the singing voice Jem (of the Holograms). She also happened to be newly, romantically involved with our intrepid frontman and songwriter, Dean Wareham. Many of the tracks on the album have a bit more pep in their step, especially when compared to the previous couple of releases. “Renee is crying” isn’t as sad as the title suggests, but is actually quite upbeat and googly-eyed, though still with the band’s patented understated intricacies. For the guitar work, acoustic rhythms mesh with electric meanderings and the jaunty drums will have your toe-tapping all the way along highway seven on the Greyhound, perhaps annoying the passengers around you, who can’t hear the joyous music pumping through your earphones.

* Flipping through the CD collections of friends in university residence was how I discovered the music of a great many bands in the mid-1990s.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #16 Supergrass “Evening of the day”

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If you haven’t already, you likely will see over time (if you continue to peruse these pages), that my musical tastes in the 1990s tended towards artists that hailed from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. So when the so-called Britpop (or Cool Britannia) scene exploded in the middle of that decade, I was all over it. Bands that I had already been listening to were all of a sudden getting more exposure and new ones were popping up at an incredible rate. Some of the bands that came out of the woodwork during this time were amazing… but frankly, some didn’t deserve the attention they received. I didn’t get into Supergrass when I first heard them circa 1995 just for this reason. Although I loved the hit single, “Alright”, I feared this zany trio might end up being one of these latter bands.

Supergrass had formed a couple of years earlier, in 1993, by frontman/guitarist Gaz Coombes, bassist Mick Quinn, and drummer Danny Goffey. They were seen as the jokesters of scene because of the humour they injected into their rapid fire and three-minute pop songs. Case in point was their debut single, “Caught by the fuzz”, a narrative regaling Coombes’ experience of getting stopped while in possession of marijuana. I even remember reading an article at the time about how they were in talks to produce a sort of “Monkees” style, outlandish television show, though I don’t remember now why it didn’t come together.

I finally gave Supergrass a chance in 1999 when they released their third album, the self-titled one, and I kicked myself then for waiting so long. By the time 2002 rolled around, I was a pretty big fan of each of the first three albums and I was seriously looking forward to album number four. I bought “Life on other planets” on compact disc from the HMV store at the Rideau Centre with a gift card I had won from work. It was the first album that listed Gaz’s brother Rob as an official member of the band, his keys giving it a fuller sound, and it was an attempt by the band to recapture the energy of their first two albums. The tracks all clock in around the two and three minute mark, the only real exceptions being the final track, “Run”, and track six, “Evening of the day” and these are both due to their extended outros.

The latter track just mentioned was never released as a single and yet still managed to win me over as my favourite on the album and one of my tops of 2002. It’s got a killer groove, snappy snare brushing and cymbal splashing, and peppy guitar rhythms. It also features bassist Quinn with a deep set of vocals and Coombes taking a back seat for the singalong. Then, at the chorus that gives a knowing tip to Spinal Tap, things pick up for some more rock and roll. I often found myself hitting replay on the CD before I ever got to the end of the outro and now do so on my iPod. So good.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

 

Best tunes of 2002: #17 Doves “Caught by the river”

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In the handful of years directly following my and Victoria’s big move to Ottawa, we lived a very frugal life. This was more out of necessity than aesthetic, given my student debt, Victoria’s concentration on finishing her master’s degree, and our measly collective earnings. Still, we often returned to Toronto to visit friends and family, but had to do so by spending the least amount of money possible, and in the periods where we didn’t have our own wheels, this meant long hours aboard the Greyhound bus fleet.

I particularly remember one such trip, an overnighter on the Friday of the August long weekend. And, well, the main reason I remember that it was that particular weekend is that we arrived just as the subway was opening on the Saturday morning and we had to wrestle our way into the subway station amongst the drunken crowds still partying after the opening night of Caribana. It wasn’t a fun experience to say the least, but perhaps I am digressing a bit too much here.

Right.

So I’ve never really been able to sleep on planes or trains, and especially not buses, no matter how tired I’ve been. I’m a pretty tall guy with spectacularly bad posture and can never get comfortable enough to catch proper rem sleep in those seats. However, I hadn’t actually come to that conclusion about myself in those days and still made every valiant effort. That particular evening, I had a new album by a new band in my discman and it went down so well through my earphones on the first spin, I repeated it. And I continued to do so for the entire five (plus) hour trip. As you might’ve guess by now, unlike Victoria beside me, I never properly fell asleep that night, just faded in and out, while the Doves and their sophomore album, “The last broadcast”, guided me through the surreal, not-quite subconscious journey, brightening an otherwise worthless night’s sleep.

This album drew me in and enveloped me for most of the following months. I was in love. I identified them with the dream pop and Madchester bands of the early 90s that I knew and loved. Their sound kept some of the dance aesthetic of their earlier incarnation as Sub Sub but it’s really the layers in the music that define who the Doves are. The music of “The last broadcast” is almost tactile, like running into a massive cobweb that wisps around you and grabs onto you, even as you try to break through it and break it down. It’s great music for driving at night and for listening to with ear phones. Believe me, I’ve tried both multiple times.

The track of our focus today, “Caught by the river”, always reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Find the river”. Perhaps because of the word “river” in the song title or perhaps because it is the finale track of another standout album. Both tracks are the perfect way to close out their respective album.

“You and I
Were so full of love and hope
Would you give it all up now?
Would you give in just to spite them all?”

The undulating strumming of the rhythm guitar emulate the feeling of being cast overboard and caught up in the crashing and splashing waves of a tumbling river. It’s a river in which the water is just fine, the chiming guitars and Goodwin’s soothing vocals ensure just that. And then, the eddies created by all the reverb and effects  just swallow you up whole and let you drift off into eternity. Ohhhhh yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.