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.