Luna, ULU, London

ULU, London

When bands discard their plectrums and decide to call it a day, explanations are seldom necessary. Free-falling record sales, a lack of ideas and mutual hatred are the mainstays behind break-ups. But Dean Wareham doesn't rely on the obvious. Having announced his band Luna's imminent retirement, his excuses - listed on the official website - run from: "Rock'n'roll is ruining my life," to the simple epitaph: "Time to quit."

The lack of a sentimental goodbye shouldn't be surprising. Having enjoyed cult success during the late 1980s with Galaxie 500, Wareham left to form Luna in 1992. Expanding on his template of dreamy indie soundscapes, chiming guitars and repetitive words, he turned Luna from a smeared photocopy of Galaxie 500 into a fully fledged, if strictly college-circuit, pop band. Ten albums later, their latest release, Rendezvous, will be their last.

The new songs begin Luna's final British show. As the mournful rhythm stealthily grows, Wareham stares at his guitar, picking out marshmallow-soft notes. Charismatic in a Mikhail Baryshnikov way, he emits a placid intensity.

But he's not without humour. "I got slapped in the face by a Japanese fan, here," Wareham recalls, bemused. "She got angry because she said I wrote all the songs about her, but didn't pay her enough attention." You can understand the delusion. From writing a lover's name all over town in Malibu Love Nest to the untrusting questioning of Chinatown, Wareham is obsessed with the opposite sex.

But in bassist Britta Phillips, he has found a worthy adversary. Swapping French intimacies on the classic Bonnie and Clyde, Phillips's sweet voice, reminiscent of Cerys Matthews's, smoothes over the cracks of Wareham's languid rumble. Despite comparisons to the Velvet Underground, as Luna cherry-pick their back catalogue - winking at Galaxie 500 with a blistering rendition of Tugboat - the country-flecked rhythms and Belle and Sebastian-style delicacy provide a shimmering consistency. And as Wareham sings Black Postcards' lament "Throw it all away, want a holiday," you have to agree he's earned it.

Contributor

Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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