An album of obscure cover songs seems like a strange reintroduction for a recently reunited band, but maybe it’s actually a smart move: Reunion albums miss way more often than they hit, failing to reignite passions in bands or fans. So why spend all that time writing new material when there are plenty of great, undiscovered compositions right there in your own record collection to choose from? Luna, the New York band that had a solid run from 1991 to 2005, played some notable covers during its heyday anyway—“Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer”—so maybe A Sentimental Education makes sense.
It doesn’t hurt that every song given the Luna treatment—mellow, reverb-y guitars, Dean Wareham’s winning deadpan vocals—pretty much becomes a Luna song. The most recognizable track is probably The Cure’s “Fire In Cairo,” an early, poppy song rendered faithfully here. Elsewhere, Luna takes on minor songs by major names—Bob Dylan’s “Most Of The Time,” from Oh Mercy; The Rolling Stones’ “Sleepy City,” which was never even properly recorded by the Stones; and a Velvet Underground track from an era of that band that didn’t even include Lou Reed. Seen from above, it’s all a little perverse: Here are a bunch of songs you’ve never heard before, or perhaps barely remember. But it works surprisingly well, as these undiscovered songs are played reverently. A Sentimental Education even closes with a cover of Mercury Rev’s brilliant lost shoegaze classic “Car Wash Hair,” whose original version includes Wareham on backing vocals. And those jonesing for actual new Luna material can get halfway there with Education’s younger brother, an instrumental EP of new material called A Place Of Greater Safety.