"L'Avventura is a soundtrack to get lucky to, a record to fall in love with, filled with songs of infatuation, desire, addiction, regret and bliss."
In the summer I often wake up early in the morning, have a big bowl of Wheaties and orange juice, throw on some shorts and a tee, and hop on my bike with backpack around my shoulders. There is a small preservation with biking and walking trails around a lake some miles away that is absolutely breathtaking in the spring and summer months with its abundance of vibrant foliage. I specifically remember listening to God is My Co-Pilot's I Am Not This Body on one memorable trek from last summer. Not what you would consider a typical "summer" album, but nevertheless, it still conjures up affections from that early morning.
A more appropriate soundtrack to this year's dog day roving is Luna frontman Dean Wareham, and newly acquired (2000) bassist Britta Phillips' collaboration album L'Avventura (Italian for The Adventure). Comprised of covers, duets, and originals penned by both artists, L'Avventura fails to live up to expectations set by Wareham and Phillips' pairing on "Mermaid Eyes" from Luna's 2002 Romantica album. Despite its billing as a duet album, you wouldn't able to tell it from track three on.
Producer Tony Visconti's (T.Rex., David Bowie) dreamy string arrangement opens the duet "Night Nurse" which features Wareham making love-letter proclamations to Phillips ("You make the ice melt / The butter run / You make the ink stain / You are the one") who reciprocates with affirmation ("I am the night nurse / I am the most / I am the visitor / You are the host") -- there is beauty in its sappiness. The other duet, "Ginger Snaps," with its pseudo-disco beat and self-described "dirty fake strings" is replete with Wareham's notoriously goofy lyrics: "When the cowboy sings / When the Saturn rings / When the ginger snaps / When the thunder claps / You can cut my hair / You can fill my cup / You can tell me lies / You can make it up." Sadly, the duets, and best tunes of the record, end there.
Of the covers, indigenous folksinger Buffy St. Marie's "Moonshot" (a nice obscure choice) fits best with Wareham's lyrical prose: it could be easily mistaken for one of his own (which I'm sure it has when performed live). The somewhat bizarre lyrics of a departed loved one and an abducted-by-angels anthropologist are aided by Visconti and Britta's otherworldly string arrangement. Madonna's ballad, "I Deserve It" off of her Music album stands out with its upbeat, straightforward guitar reworking and natural lyrics. The Opal (prepubescent, sans-Hope Sandoval Mazzy Star band) cover "Hear the Wind Blow" ends up sounding a bit too similar to the original, maintaining the hollow production and tambourine but is partly saved by yet another wonderful string arrangement (again provided by Visconti).
Phillips' solo original, "Your Baby," is a drowsy number with her declaring, in her best Sandoval impression, "I just want to stay sleeping / In your love." The most outstanding non-duet original, though, is the Wareham penned, Phillips sung, "Knives from Bavaria." The slightly haunting love song has Phillips murmuring from a barren well "Come here and brush me / Divide me in two / Drink me and drown me / I like you / I do." The chippy "la la" chorus adds to the songs ethereality.
Although it contains two blessed duets, some quality covers, and a superior original, I can only think of how an album bursting with "Night Nurse" and "Ginger Snaps"-like duets would have fared. It could have been much more, but for what it is -- a blissful summer excursion -- L' Avventura is delicately delightful.