The word on Luna's Romantica, the sixth studio effort from the New York quartet, is that it's their, well, "romance" album. I'll grant that guitarist and vocalist Dean Wareham's lyrics are more interpersonally oriented than the oddball character studies that dominated 1997's Pup Tent and 1999's The Days of Our Nights, and on a few tracks he even verges on debonair. As a pitcher of woo he sounds endearingly silly and foppish: on "Lovedust" he sings, "When candles light themselves / And the air turns creamy / Why not take a photograph? / You look so dreamy." But "interpersonal" is about as far as I can go to describe these songs; I'm reluctant to call them romantic. Wareham cultivates a cool, somewhat remote musical persona--one reason some fans of his old group, Galaxie 500, continue to resist Luna, whose records have always been exquisitely crafted but emotionally noncommittal. Still, while it may be hard to warm up to Wareham as a front man, it's also hard to resist the music behind him. The guitars (courtesy Wareham and Sean Eden) feel like a calm embrace, and Romantica, like every record in the band's catalog, bristles with instantly classic hooks: "Black Postcards," "Lovedust," "1995," and "Black Champagne" are all destined to be onstage standards. They'll blend nicely with the current repertoire: Despite the contributions of guests like former Luscious Jackson keyboardist Vivian Trimble and Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann (who arranged or mixed several cuts here), Romantica sounds pretty much exactly like Luna's earlier records--the only conspicuous difference is the addition of backing vocals by new bassist Britta Phillips, who in the 80s provided the singing voice of cartoon rocker Jem. Even an eccentric sonic touch like the wheezy harmonica solo on "Swedish Fish" is mixed so far back you have to listen close just to meet it halfway--not a bad analogy, actually, for what it takes to appreciate the band. Friday, May 31, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nicholas Burnham.