Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips, L'Avventura:
I Deserve It Moonshot
I miss Luna. I discovered them on their debut record, then spent a decade following them faithfully, buying every album, involuntarily memorizing arrangements and lyrics, and happily spending money at the merch table each time they appeared in town.
Formed by New Zealand-born guitarist/songwriter Dean Wareham after he disbanded Galaxie 500 in the early nineties, Luna played a stately, deadpan guitar-pop with slight traces of its forebears, the Velvet Underground and Television, though sleeker and droller than either. A full-fledged elegy is in the works here in the newly-minted mp3 department of the blog, but as a warm-up opening act, let’s hear a two-shot from a Luna side project: Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips’ album L’Avventura. Both selections are covers of songs originally written and performed by women.
Madonna’s “I Deserve It” is a song I would not have appreciated when I was twenty. It feels calm, mature, racked up with life-mileage, and its imagery is spare and elemental: “Many miles, many roads I have traveled/Falling down on the way/Many hearts, many years, have unravelled/Leading up to today.” (That last line gives me a little chill.) Wareham covers it faithfully, as close to the tenor of Madonna’s original as he can remain while still personalizing it as he expertly gender-flips both text and subtext.
“Moonshot” by Canadian First Nations songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is the only song I know that belongs to the “moon landing protest song” genre. It’s nicely unpredictable, and a bit spooky: “An anthropologist, he wrote a book/He called it “Myths Of Heaven”/He’s disappeared/His wife is all distraught/An angel came and got him…”.
Tony Visconti, who worked with Bowie and T-Rex, produced the record. He made some unusual choices, like applying a wash of strings here or triggering a 1970's beat box there. But overall, the mood is mellower, airier, than a Luna album.
More: Dean & Britta's site, and a good interview with Dean.