or what it's worth, no one expected Luna to be around for thirteen years and seven albums. In fact, only singer-songwriter-guitarist Dean Wareham remains from the original lineup of his liked, but not loved, band that formed in the wake of Wareham’s more famous group, Galaxie 500. The closest thing to a hit for Luna was also one of the worst songs they ever released, a lifeless and bitterly ironic cover of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." That song came from an equally bad record, 1999's The Nights Of Our Days, a full-length Elektra refused to release, ending Luna's major record label stint. Then, three years later, came Romantica, a sweet, hook-filled and all-around excellent record that happened to be their best yet. An inconsistent and frustrating band resurrected. Or so it could have been, if they had nailed the follow-up.
Rendezvous is a return to form of sorts, but not the right sort. Eleven lax, pretty, and lazy bits of half-developed dream-pop, the record never attains any real momentum, so at least it can be said never to lose it. Rather, the meandering songs coalesce into an uninspired mass, burying the few good moments within it.
Opener "Malibu Love Nest" is not one of them, but it does form the template for much of what follows: repetitious guitar lines, an unnecessary and boring instrumental break, a laundry list lyrical approach ("On the walls and on the streets / In the sand and on the beach / I'll write your name"...Dean, isn't the sand on the beach?), and a general lack of hooks or immediacy are the distinguishing characteristics here. And of the silly and vaguely political "Star-Spangled Man". And "Buffalo Boots" and "Rainbow Babe". Which doesn't make them especially distinguishing characteristics at all.
It speaks badly for Wareham's songwriting this time around that the best song on Rendezvous, "Astronaut", was also the best song on the 2002 EP Close Cover Before Striking. Even in a badly remixed form, this sleek but noisy gem is one of the few songs here that not only gets stuck in your head, but also genuinely rocks. Not surprisingly, it also sounds like it belongs on a different record.
Because sadly, Rendezvous sounds as if Romantica and Close Cover… never happened. While Romantica benefited from such sonic surprises as orchestral flourishes, drum machines and the boy-girl balance created by bassist Britta Phillips' backing vocals, Rendezvous keeps the instrumentation basic and sedate like many a filler song in the Luna catalog. Wareham's trademark wordplay is still present, but couplets like "It's raining rain / It's raining snow" ("Speedbumps") are subpar by his standards, and "I like flowers / I like sex / Cover all the mirrors / I think I'm gonna cry" may be the worst lyric he's ever composed. Even "Broken Chair" and "Still At Home," the two songs on which guitarist Sean Eden sings lead vocals, don't distinguish themselves immediately because of the strong similarity to Wareham’s own timbre. That being said, they do have a gentle, magnetic emotional quality to them, helping to make them among the most memorable here over repeated listens.
Sure, Luna has a mixed track record in expanding their sound—see Pup Tent—but failed experiments almost always sound better than a band going through the motions. And Rendezvous is the sound of Luna doing just that. When Luna is in the same dustbin of rock history as Galaxie 500, time may treat them better, remembering them at their best while glossing over the many missteps. However, as a final statement, it’s a frustrating one to stomach in the short-term.
Reviewed by: Josh Drimmer
Reviewed on: 2004-10-26