Bald New Yorker's bland successor to 'Play'. Advertisers, form an orderly queue...
Ooh lordy, trouble’s so hard when you’ve just sold 10 million
copies of an album that was recorded for $250,000. When ‘Play’
was released in 1999, it seemed like merely the latest experiment
in an eccentrically genre-hopping career which had seen Moby
take in rave (his first hit ‘Go!’), Italian House (1994’s
‘Everytime You Touch Me’), film soundtracks (the compilation
‘I Like To Score’) and, er, thrash metal (1996’s ‘Animal Rights’).
Nobody had reckoned on the seductive powers of sampled blues
vocals mixed with yearning chill-out music, particularly over
the advertising and TV soundtrack supremos who made ‘Play’
If the last album hadn’t blown up big-style, you can guarantee
that Moby would have continued on his wayward path and ’18’
would have been very different. Instead, the temptation to make
another ‘Play’ clearly proved irresistible. The lead single,
the excellent, Bowie-ish wibbler ‘We Are All Made Of Stars’
is a total red herring. The other 67 minutes and 17 tracks are
‘Play’ Redux; familiar-sounding “oh-lord-my-dog’s-just-died”
samples over shopworn pianos and strings, straining to be epic
but lacking the crucial element of surprise that made ‘Play’
sound so innovative.
More importantly, the songs themselves just aren’t as good.
There’s nothing to match the rumbustuous ‘Honey’, or the
widescreen sweep of ‘Southside’; just increasingly pale
imitations of ‘Natural Blues’. ‘In This World’ introduces
that “lordy” word again (this time it’s “Lordy don’t
leave me/All by myself”); ‘One Of These Mornings’ warns
“…I’ll be gone” over strings that aren’t so much
soaring as on auto-pilot and ‘Sunday (The Day Before My
Birthday)’ asks “why did he leave?” (Because of the
constant moaning, no doubt.)
’18’ gets better the further it strays from the ‘Play’
blueprint. Moby‘s wispy vocal on ‘Signs Of Love’ lends
relief from the constant emoting, ‘Extreme Ways’ hints
at rock ‘n’ roll derring do over a decent disco bassline
and ‘Another Woman’ successfully updates Marshall
Jefferson’s deep house classic ‘Open Your Eyes’.
‘Sleep Alone’, however, is just morbid. Though its
lyrics (“At least we died together/Holding hands,
flying through the sky”) were changed post-September
11, you have to wonder why Moby bothered when he’s been
reciting them in every new interview. His new nemesis
Eminem may be offensive, but at least he’s unashamedly
And that’s the whole problem with ’18’; it feels compromised,
the work of a man who pulled his career from the jaws of death
and knows he’s onto a good thing. Last week, Moby responded
to his Eminem diss by saying the rapper makes “music for
ten-year-olds”. Too right – no self-respecting ten-year-old
would be caught dead listening to something as dull as ’18’.
Sign up for the newsletter
It’s not so much ‘Play’ as played out.