By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The reason I don't like Moby isn't because Play, his steam-gathering smash record from last year, pillages from the past and calls it the present. Some folks had problems with the fact that samples of anthropologist Alan Lomax's field recordings made up the bulk of the record, claiming that Moby did little more than slap on a click track and call it his own. Whatever, I say. You could say the same thing about hip-hop, but no one who's heard It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back or Straight Outta Compton or Enter the Wu-Tang would. Well, they might, but they'd be wrong. No, I don't like Moby because, well, he's a sentimental-ass geek.
The first large chunk of his work that I heard was Everything is Wrong, his 1995 Elektra debut. I had heard some of his dance stuff--most notable the Twin Peaks-sampling hit "Go"--and thought it was all right, but never really considered him anything more than an inch-above-average techno guy. Then I gave Everything a full listen and my interest was piqued: Here's someone, I thought, jettisoning dance-floor purity for a uniquely open-armed musical hunger, unafraid to craft a record that flits from rock to techno to house to punk to pop to goopy New Age--in a good way. But the honeymoon was short-lived.
Animal Rights, Everything's follow-up, was a straight-ahead rock record. Cool, I remember thinking before hearing a note: He's confounded my expectations again. Thing is, Moby's not an especially good rocker. He can get it up all right in a pinch, but it's really forced. Even worse, the stuff is suffused with an obnoxious zeal that belies his outsider status. Still, I wasn't ready to write him off completely. Trying on new clothes is a sometimes painful process, I reasoned; let the model have his mood swings. But then there was Play, a bloated, yawn-inducing hunk of treacle that confirmed Moby's status as the Top 40's most shameless heartstring-puller. I have no problem being manipulated--I love it when Britney whines about how hard it is being famous while crossing her fingers behind her back, raking in another million--but I can't stand Hallmark Movies of the Week. Every time I hear "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad"--a title so earnest it hurts--I'm reminded that Moby doesn't know the first thing about subtlety, always taking the easy way out, letting another layer of synthesized strings do the talking for him.
I've never bought a Wyndham Hill sampler for a reason. I don't appreciate Moby's attempt to slip one by me.