Ten albums in, Moby considers himself Destroyed. Well, that’s not true. (That’s more or less an un-clever way to use a pun in this review.) No, Moby remains fine. He’s moved to Los Angeles, he’s surrounded himself with a castle in the Hollywood Hills, and he’s touring the globe with not only his music, but his collection of photos. As an artist, he’s windsurfing on success. As a star, he glows brighter and brighter each year. But you won’t find that Moby within the 71+ minutes that make up Destroyed.
Instead, you’ll find a strung out artist, desperately including every facet of his multi-talented crafts. He attempts everything here. He tests some uppers (“The Day”), he meddles with downers (“Rockets”). He sweeps you off your feet (“The Violent Bear it Away”), he ensconces your mind into a mid-day depression (“When You Are Old”). It’s too much. It’s overload. With the exception of a few tracks, each song averages around four minutes (one inches past eight minutes!), which leaves you just enough time to get trapped in a tangled web of emotions. You lose yourself. Traditionally, that’s always been a thrilling feature of a Moby effort. However, over 15 tracks, and for spiraling past an hour, it’s exhausting.
When announcing the record earlier this year, Moby called it “broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2 a.m.” Whether he succeeded or failed is irrelevant. Most of his music could arguably be considered this. He writes ambient music, after all. But, let’s go with his mantra; in some respects, he succeeds tremendously. Opener “The Broken Places” pinches with digital yawns, painting a vivid picture of an early morning arrival at a lone, desolate airport. It’s haunting yet picturesque. On the other hand, the lurching urgency of “Be The One” feels tragic and maddening; the perfect soundtrack to a stalker’s stroll. Following these, a few tracks just really work: “Blue Moon” successfully reaches for the stars, “The Violent Bear it Away” drains the tear ducts, and “Lacrimae” will one day make for a great final track on someone’s “end of the world” mix. Even his attempt at Bowie on recent single “The Day” sort of works, though the chorus does feel cribbed from 2005’s Hotel.
Actually, that last part is sort of the problem here. So much of it feels like a retread that you wonder if this would be better off as a B-sides collection. “Sevastopol” chugs with raving decadence, but we’ve heard it before (Miami Vice‘s “Anthem” or Play: The B-Sides‘ “Sunday”). The soulful ballad “The Right Thing” comes off like an alternate take of “In This World” (off of 2002’s 18). The bluesy swing of “Lie Down in Darkness” oozes of Wait for Me material; as if they decided it wouldn’t gel with “Pale Horses”. It wouldn’t be a stretch, they’re both oddly similar. So, maybe that’s where the disappointment here lies. It’s too familiar to be considered a true destination album. Sort of like your folks considering your holiday visit a vacation. It’s not.
But it’s more than that. Partly to blame is its lack of focus. By comparison, it’s the direct antithesis of his last effort, 2009’s (highly underrated) Wait for Me. Two years ago, Moby exhibited a sharp ear, melding traditional blues rock with his ambient best, carving out his most poignant record since 1999’s Play. On Destroyed, it’s as if his scope was all encompassing, which, regardless of the artist, will always result as clustered and unfocused. That’s what happened here: It’s a jumbled mess that’s partly aggravating in its derivative nature. Not coincidentally, you live up to the album’s title by its end. Still, like any long, tiring trip, it’s the moments that count. Moby continues to excel in that.
Feature artwork by Cap Blackard.