CD Review of Hotel by Moby
Moby: Hotel

Reviewed by David Medsker


n what seemed like the blink of an eye, Richard Melville Hall went from unassuming techno mouse, to ultra-savvy TV-commercial licensee, to Eminem’s bitch. No one likes being a punching bag, and perhaps that would explain 18, his perfectly fine but underwhelming follow-up to critical and commercial breakthrough Play. He seemed unsure of where to go next, and how much of Play’s gospel sampling blueprint to take with him. The album wound up almost apologizing for itself, as if Moby was more focused on what the public wanted than on what he wanted.

It appears that issue is still unsettled. To its credit, Hotel is better than 18, and is the album that should have followed Play. It has enough in common with Play – the dreamy washes of synthesizers, classic modern rock with an updated production aesthetic - but doesn’t feel as recycled as 18 did. At the same time, there’s a feeling of safety to it, the sense that he’s only occasionally trying to knock it out of the park.

Take the instrumental intro, cleverly titled “Intro.” It just screams Moby, with the icy Joy Division synths and percolating drum track. It’s pretty, but haven’t we heard this one already? “Raining Again,” the second track, fares much better. With a double time snare drum and staccato piano, it sounds like a lost Peter Murphy track, except for the fact that Moby isn’t a tenth of the singer that Murphy is. The thumpin’ “Very” is as close as he gets to his bygone club days, with singer Laura Brown delivering a smooth but sassy vocal. She also delivers a half-speed rendition of New Order’s “Temptation” that is like “Intro,” in that it’s pretty but needless.

Moby didn’t realize it at the time, but becoming a pop star has given him a substantial image problem. The club kids who worshiped him ten years ago won’t touch him now that their mothers like him, while those same mothers don’t understand it when he wants to rock out and wish he would do more of those songs with the black ladies singing on them. His best bet is to go back underground and forget the last six years ever happened. The problem is, every time he changes the channel and one of his songs pops up in an ad, he’ll be reminded of why he went underground in the first place.

Other Moby reviews:
18 (2002)
Play (1999)

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