It’s hard to be a fan of techno when there’s so much of it. Everyone with a computer and Frooty Loops aims to one day be the next Paul Oakenfold. Yet among the clutter, there is some greatness. There’s the old (Daft Punk, Crystal Method), the current (LCD Soundsystem, Peanut Butter Wolf), and then there’s Moby. That might sound a bit optimistic for a guy whose last release, 2005’s Hotel, pretty much was swept under the floor mat, but I’ve yet to see a single composer revitalize the sound as the New York, bald, boy wonder has.
Much like 2005’s Hotel, Moby’s new effort, Last Night, came out of left field. It seems fitting to have an album, considering it has been three years, but it was just a bit of a surprise. I found out through a review, several of them. Each one raved of a return to “true” form, gone are the lush atmospheric tunes and in place, a throw back to the fun, grooving days of the musician’s early career. Upon reading that information, my heart stopped. After listening to the album, my heart shattered.
You see, I love those atmospheric tunes. The way Moby works the synthesizers and repetitive melodies are very surreal and dreamy, as if I’m watching Flight of The Navigator on acid. It’s the reason I even attempted to enjoy Hotel, it’s the reason I still spin Play and 18 repeatedly. Who the hell wants cheesy roller rink music?
Even if Last Night doesn’t all sound like that, the idea is there. Where all of Play, most of 18, and a few off Hotel could sneak it’s way into fantastic visuals a la Miami Vice or the better parts of Southland Tales, the majority (if not all) of Last Night belongs at a laser tag arena or a night club on South Beach… on a Tuesday in December. It’s just cheap.
Sure it’s poppy (“Disco Lies”), maybe some of it bleeds emotion (“Everyday It’s 1989”), and clubgoers could eat it up (“Alice”), but it’s not Moby. This listens more like Paul Oakenfold mixed by a NYC Mixmaster three hours before a cheap gig. Brutal? Well, the guru deserves better than this.
Where does it work?
The album’s saving grace is actually kick started by a reused sampling of his previous work (“Tiny Elephants”), which he submitted for Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, only here it’s labeled, “Degenerates.” Here’s where things start treading familiar ground, when the clicky techno-pop is shelved and the science-fiction, enchanted gala of electronic experimentation comes in.
“Sweet Apocalypse” follows with dreary, little droplets of synth that build and build. It’s an instrumental, but certainly a throwback to the 1980’s days of Jann Hammer. And what’s wrong with that? “Mothers of the Night” is inarguably the strongest new track here and will probably find its way into either another Michael Mann film or a trailer later this year. It’s pulling, reflective, and everything that makes this composer who he is. When the synthetic violins rise, there is a moment of captivity, where the listener isn’t really listening as they’re somewhere else.
Unfortunately that moment is too late, too sudden, and spoiled by the forgettable title track, which ends a lackluster album. Given it’s the guy’s ninth offering, let me cut him some slack. It might be true, you can’t take everything with you for so long.
But I can always go back…
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