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Reviewed by David Medsker
The secret to their success: not being successful.
The second you get a mainstream hit, it’s over, and Moby will be the first to tell you that. His albums for Elektra were the work of the most carefree man in the world, going from techno to rock to music scores within the span of three albums. The reason he was such a free spirit: there were no expectations of commercial success. (It should surprise no one that Elektra chose to drop him rather than release a fourth album.) Moby then signed with the artist-friendly V2 and made the gospel-sampling Play, the oddest album of his career…and it became a worldwide smash. Soon, Gwen Stefani was (needlessly) getting inserted into his singles, and whether he wanted it or not, Moby was as big of a pop star as Madonna. And boom goes the dynamite.
Now, of course, Moby can’t please anyone. He gave the public another Play (his 2002 album 18), and they said “You gave us this already!” So he made a record for himself (2005’s Hotel), and they said, “We want something that sounds like Play!” Then V2, sadly, went kaput, and now Moby’s moved to the dance-friendly Mute imprint, deciding to go back to his roots for his newest, Last Night. The problem is that he’s not making music for the public anymore; he’s making it for the hipsters, and they wrote him off the second the CHR stations started playing “Porcelain.” This record is going to fall on a whole mess of deaf ears.
To its credit, the album isn’t awful; it’s just not very compelling, and the compelling stuff has no energy. “Ooh Yeah” would have fit nicely on any of his V2 albums, and “I Love to Move in Here” is a loving tribute to the ‘guest rap followed by a breakdown’ days of the late ‘80s and early ’90s, but neither is what one would call a booty shaker. “Everyday Is 1989,” on the other hand, is a booty shaker, but it’s obnoxious, not to mention the fact that no one wants to relive 1989. That was the year of acid house, and it was bad enough the first time. Granted, this song is more Black Box than acid, but no one asked for that, either.
“Live for Tomorrow,” on the other hand, is gorgeous, but like “Ooh Yeah” and “I Love to Move in Here,” it’s too damn slow. While we understand that Moby made his bones in the ambient field, has he completely forgotten how to write a good Hi-NRG song? Or are the now-dated natures of the styles he’s trying to recreate hamstringing him before he’s even begun? Perhaps it’s something else; Moby, even with live singers, continues to structure his songs as if he’s working with samples of their singing and not the singers themselves, even though the women are right there and ready to sing whatever he wants them to. He may have made millions by building riffs instead of songs, but he has now officially gone to that well far too many times.
The thing about Last Night is that it could have been a masterpiece, and no one would have cared. Moby, to use Mamet speak, is burned, and burned people are advised to lay low until the heat dies down. Sounds like good advice to us.