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Pop Music Review : Luna Up From the Underground

July 15, 1994|MIKE BOEHM

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Luna is awfully polite to its elders, chief among them the Velvet Underground. Still, the New York band's well-executed show on Wednesday at the Coach House here offered plenty of satisfying guitar lyricism, quietly appealing vocal melodies and assured, if controlled, rhythmic thrust. Even in this much-tempered, borrowed version, the Velvets' method has lasting appeal.

In his diffident way, Luna's slightly built, small-voiced leader Dean Wareham has managed to make the music of his forebears serve his own songwriting vision, which is all one can ask of a rock traditionalist. Just as he submits to the musical past with faithful restraint, the characters who move through Wareham's songs are submissive sorts who accumulate numerous psychic bruises but lack the moxie to protest, to resist, to make demands.

While the band's latest album, "Bewitched," is often becalmed by all this passivity, Luna mixed in enough harder-driving material from its "Lunapark" debut and from such outside sources as Steve Wynn and Talking Heads to offer a balanced, 70-minute set. The band pushed hard at times, but never really broke loose: The wild, weird, experimental side of the Velvets championed by Sonic Youth just isn't Luna's style.

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