As history tries to reduce entire decades of music down into digestible sizes, a lot gets lost. When you think of 70s rock you probably have a clear, immediate picture, but the seventies was rife with funk, disco, progressive rock and folk, along with the birth of punk (and post punk), new wave, hip hop and more besides. When people talk about rock in the 90s, they mainly mean grunge—Nirvana and Pearl Jam (with a dollop of Radiohead for flavor). In that, it feels hard to square my impression of Luna as a '90s band'—they weren't so much anti-grunge as blissfully oblivious.
Take a closer look though, and Luna had peers: Belle and Sebastian, The Sea and Cake, and more. They didn't all sound the same, but were all chasing to a different form of songwriting, a different well of inspiration than the grunge kids. While they each had a devoted cult following, and none of them would be in consideration for 'band of a generation', they represented an undercurrent that is equally of its time.
As a west coast kid, who later moved to Chicago, Luna to me, epitomized New York: Well-read, a tad cynical and too cool to get that worked up about it. In my mind, Luna represent an entire category of music: an atmospheric, mellow cool vibe. It's a tragic oversight they were never tapped to soundtrack a Jim Jarmusch movie. Now I live in New York, and I walk around the city with lines from Luna songs lodged in my brain, "You ain't no Cary Grant, but then again, who is?"
Their reputation was burnished by being one of the most reliable live bands on the circuit. Even in venues with notoriously shitty sound (Chicago's Abbey Pub, I'm looking at you), they came off great. It's partly why they're one of the only bands I would see every time they passed through town; I probably saw them something like 20+ times in their 12 years together.
Given how near and dear Luna are to me, this boxset makes perfect sense. I only wish it included their last two (great) albums—just to round things out, but fans always want more… As I've listened back through it all, it's great to revisit these old favorites with the attention you sometimes lose with familiarity. I will say it has engendered a much more charitable reading of the last album in the set, Days of Our Nights, While it's not their finest hour (very few would argue against Penthouse), there's a lot more solid songs on it than I remembered.
Of course, this set seriously courts cheating, or outright violates on my curatorial code of 1-record-per-artist. I'll only defend myself by saying: they came as set. I make the rules… and the exceptions.