Luna, Lunapark (1992)

Luna are on the shortlist of great bands I closely associate with the mid-90s, when I was starting my grown-up life in San Francisco, far removed from the college radio 80s that had dominated my listening habits up until then, alongside others like Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Teenage Fanclub, and Bettie Serveert. 

I remember walking into Aquarius Records near our Noe Valley apartment, the sort of small independent record store where the clerks enthusiastically attached hand-written Post-It notes to all the new releases.  I had never heard of Luna, but the sticker on the front of the CD read, "Featuring Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500), Stan Demeski (The Feelies), and Justin Harwood (The Chills)."  And since those were some of my favorite bands, this seemed like a no-brainer.

I'd had enough disappointments with "supergroups" over the years, so I went into this with low expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it from the very first spin.  It was more upbeat than Galaxie 500's moody dream pop, driven by Demeski's steady beat, with Wareham's lyrics and vocals a little more playful than in his prior band.  The overall sound had a retro-psychedelic vibe, reminiscent of Paisley Underground bands like the Rain Parade.  The most immediate tracks were the upbeat rockers, like the riveting drone of "I Can't Wait," the insistent percussion-driven "Slash Your Tires," and the perky "Smile," which most directly conjures that trippy Rain Parade jangle.  But there were plenty of lovely, midtempo tunes a little more indicative of the band's future direction, most notably album opener "Slide," pretty waltz "Time," and the Galaxie 500-reminiscent "Anaesthesia."
The band continued to release consistently solid albums for another decade and a half (reuniting recently for a covers album), through a number of personnel changes.  And while this is probably not my favorite Luna album (I'm slightly more partial to the follow-ups, 1994's Bewitched and especially 1995's fantastic Penthouse, after they had filled out their sound with the addition of lead guitarist Sean Eden), I've always felt an emotional attachment to the debut. 

Here's the "Slash Your Tires" video:
...and the "Slide" video:

Here's a live take on "I Can't Wait" from a recent post-reunion gig:

Buy it on Amazon.