Originally, the idea of Air composing music for re-release of the silent film Le Voyage Dans La Lune seemed like an inspired artistic decision. Air has grown artistically lethargic as of late — namely on their past two full-lengths and 5:55, the album they wrote with Charlotte Gainsbourg – and this suggested Air was working to breathe new life into the band. After all, they already have one successful soundtrack under their belts for The Virgin Suicides, so it could potentially be a good fit them. The subject matter seemed to suit them well. The title, which translates to “A Trip to the Moon,” even suggested a return to their greatest achievement to date, Moon Safari.
If all of this raised expectations a bit, Nicolas Godin effectively tempered them by freely admitting in a recent Pitchfork interview, “after 40, you make shit records” because “when you grow old, music is less important in your life.” The statement itself isn’t exactly a shocking revelation, even if it isn’t necessarily true for quite a few relevant aging artists out there. I’m sure this explanation can account for a lot of “shit records” by once great artists. It was the idea that the band felt a struggle in themselves to manufacture something worthwhile at this stage in their lives that didn’t seem to suggest the kind of inspiration that produces classics.
Admittedly, Air does sound re-energized on most of the album. These are some of the most animated songs the band has produced in quite some time. But unfortunately, energy in this case does not always translate to great songs. Even if there’s nothing inherently displeasing about “Astronomic Club” or “Cosmic Trip,” no matter how many times I listen to them I can’t shake the feeling that there’s also nothing all that memorable to grab onto. And then there are tracks like “Parade,” which is largely composed of pretty invigorating stuff, but also contains a strange synth-funk breakdown that feels just a little too cartoonish for its own good.
Even after taking into consideration the many pitfalls that Air fall prey to on Lune, it’s still not a fair assessment to say that the album itself is a failure. It can at times be bland and ill advised, but just as often it can be fun, pretty, exhilarating and well thought out. “Seven Stars” featuring Victoria Legrand of Beach House is unsurprisingly gorgeous. “Moon Fever” also proves that the duo can still take the listener to heavenly places through the use of spacey synths. So while it falls far short of the band’s most fruitful period, which ended with Talkie Walkie, it’s easily the band’s best work since that record.
If Air cast this album as a rebirth of sorts, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have set out on exploring new territory. “Sonic Armada” feels like something that would have fit nicely on The Virgin Suicides. It’s a brisk workout sure, but in a style that would have been right at home on that record, complete with the siren-like sounds off of “Clouds Up.” Most of the record finds Air taking up territory they’re quite comfortable with. But it’s also territory that they have proven to be quite good at it, which is why even if they don’t always reach the stars, they come close enough to make Lune a far more enjoyable experience than one might expect from them at this point.
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