Moby Pursues Great White Follow-Up

Michael Konigsberg
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Moby doesn’t make “concept albums.” Any concept over his previous release “Play” was no more than solid enjoyment. No personal experience or technical innovation shows up to singularly rule the shapes and arc of the songs on his new album, “18.” He does like theme, however. The idea man and orchestrator assembles singers and samples for an even-tempered album that makes room for gladness next to the sadness felt in harsh environments. The theme through 18 songs, however, is the compromise of his old popular blast, and the ears are not glad for it.

Opening with the now-ubiquitous prog-electronic-pop-rock track “We Are All Made of Stars,” Moby takes advantage of the current climate of genre-synthesizing for an easy-on-anybody’s-ears possible dance number with a snapping beat. This is “18” in a nutshell – a bit common and pop-ready but an OK time overall.
“In This World” demonstrates Moby’s familiar trick of superimposing a regular dance rhythm over vintage syncopated soul vocals. The effect is charming, and it is this kind of arranging that makes Moby the producer and his work on “18” and previous release “Play” so technically masterful. However, his underwear is showing.

One can hear his formula as he joins track with track. It’s hard to say how far in advance he plans the samples of singing and instrumentals he chooses, but they can be individually identified – beat from base from atmosphere from vocals.

Moby repeats arranging techniques without considering the most creative way to advance a song. He establishes a certain harmony and maintains it consistently to its end. Intros are even typical of his peers’, consisting of a baseline, beat and chord, slapped together very neatly in a few variations.

By the end of “18,” though, the listener has had a certain amount of pleasure. “Rafters” brings it home with a tasty party jam that makes the heels click before jumping off the bed to groove across the floor.
Moby’s weakness on “18” is also one of his virtues as a producer. It is worth something that Moby wears such a kind persona as a musician. His music is nonviolent. Lyrics are thoughtful in subject matter, usually concerned with gentle personal relationships or society relating to itself, and often with affection.

Moby continues to serve the needs of pop music to be fun and kind. What he doesn’t push in innovation or excitement, he makes up with a friendly place to be.