Schtick becomes ho-hum
MOBY is in need of a pep talk, an upper, and a little ray of sunshine. From the first second of his 10th album, the atmosphere is heavy and melancholic.
It’s not a bad thing. He is, after all, adept at rendering these sad feelings in a believable way. Over the course of 15 tunes, however, it can be hard work for the listener.
An instrumental called The Broken Places sets the tone, with outer space ping-pong melodies, sweeping analog synths and minimal, shuffling electronic beats.
Be The One’s simplistic, repetitive, robotic vocal is in keeping with the style of the opener but with more oomph in the rhythm section.
Sevastopol picks up the pace a notch but never crosses the line into the realm of nightclub music. Destroyed is definitely aimed at the day after a night out on the town.
Low Hum harks back to the ambient pop-electronica of Moby’s most successful albums. The man himself has described this record as ‘‘ broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2am’’. That’s exactly what Low Hum feels like.
The Day is a turning point. It obviously channels Bowie but not in a disgusting, copycat kind of way. The song is heartbreaking and strung out, a lament for a loved one who abuses drugs. Smart and honest, The Day is the album’s standout by a wide margin.
Most of the songs that come after this feel more human than the album’s robotic front end. Moby dips back into his favourite blues, gospel and folk influences, artfully combining them with the electronic soundscapes.
In this way, Destroyed sits somewhere between his most commercially successful albums, Play and 18.
Fans will rejoice but don’t expect Destroyed to shift 10 million copies or Moby to license every single song to movies, advertisements and TV shows ( again). The music industry landscape has shifted dramatically since 1999.
The Right Thing sets a high watermark and could slip unnoticed on to Play with its swell of strings, broken beats and gutsy gospel melodies – blurry, gentle, lonely.
This album sounds like it was written in the wee hours by an insomniac for other insomniacs. Sometimes it is too cold and at other times the listener is left wanting more like Lie Down in Darkness and wondering why this song was buried at track number 11.
The only gripe is there’s little on Destroyed that we haven’t heard from Moby before.
★ ★ ★ ■