Luna Park

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2006
Original album - Fundamental
Producer - Trevor Horn
Subsequent albums - Concrete
Other releases - (none)

The April 2005 issue of Literally mentioned this as a song written by Chris and Neil in 2003 but set aside for likely inclusion on their next album. In May 2005 it was reported that Trevor Horn was working with Neil and Chris in the studio on this track, and orchestral parts were recorded the following month. What emerged is a lovely but extremely somber ballad that manages the neat trick of proving both sumptuous and stark at the same time.

There are and have been many Luna Parks. The original, however, was an amusement park that opened in 1903 on New York City's Coney Island. In their desire to provide visitors with an experience "not of this earth," its founders attempted to create a place that simulated what they imagined the moon might be like, at least if the moon had towers and lakes. It was open to visitors only at night and was illuminated with neon lights—facts relevant not only to the song's lyrics but perhaps also to the "neon motif" of Fundamental itself. What's even more salient is the eventual fate of this original Luna Park. In 1912, less than ten years after it opened, it was seriously damaged by fire, though it managed to reopen again soon after. A second catastrophic fire in 1944, however, completely destroyed the park. Despite these cataclysms, however, other Luna Parks were subsequently constructed in various cities around the world. They proved so successful, in fact, that in some languages (such as Russian and Hebrew) "luna park" became a generic term for any amusement park. (Incidentally, a brand new Luna Park has only recently been built on the original Coney Island site; it opened in 2010.)

In the November 2005 Literally Neil states that the Boys' "Luna Park" serves as a metaphor for America. Like several songs on Fundamental, it appears to have been inspired by the "war on terror." So if "Luna Park" is indeed the United States, then what does the line "It's always dark in Luna Park" suggest—aside, of course, from the historical fact that the original Luna Park was open only at night? In what ways is America an amusement park where it's always dark? That, in effect, is the subject of the song. To much of the rest of the world, rightly or wrongly, the United States must indeed seem like a vast national amusement park, an "unreal" place where people are devoted to entertainment and enjoyment, to keeping themselves amused, and to keeping themselves in the dark—though whether that darkness is merely a means to an end or an end unto itself is a matter of debate.

Look at the phrases Neil uses to describe this "amusement park," complete with its "plastic prizes": "When we're getting high, we're happy/Somebody's eating fire, we're happy," "Every night we go to the latest horror show." Aren't these accurate descriptions of precisely the sort of jaded, desensitized entertainment junkies that Americans are often accused of being? And why? Is it because Americans are and have always been trying desperately, often with the help of technology, to spare themselves the true horrors of the world—horrors that are now moving ever closer to home in an age of growing terrorism?

And when we're feeling scared, we're happy
With circuses and bread we're happy
The whirling fair machines are all we need

Another recurring line is worth paying special attention to: "In Luna Park it can't be dark too soon." Does this suggest that the American public actually likes being "in the dark," with all the multiple layers of meaning that implies?

Consider also the further implications of choosing "Luna Park" as a metaphor for the United States. Since ancient times, the moon has been associated with madness; hence the word "lunacy." Are the Pet Shop Boys suggesting that Americans live in a state of perpetual collective—if not individual—insanity?

Whatever the case, Neil doesn't believe that the prospects for this "Luna Park" are any better than they were for the original: "The future's dark in Luna Park.… A storm will come one day to blow us all away." It's just a matter of when and how the cataclysm will occur. Sobering thoughts, to be sure.

The "soundscape" of this track is particularly interesting, complete with wind effects and the use of a "thundersheet," a large, thin sheet of metal that when shaken produces a thunder-like sound. As stated by Neil in that same issue of Literally, "It’s the first time we've had a thundersheet on the record," to which Chris replied, "How come it's taken us so long?" The synth solos are also noteworthy, hearkening back to the early Moog synthesizers of the early 1970s. At times they even mimic the sound of a siren, adding to the atmosphere of menace that permeates this song.

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