t’s indicative, but not entirely descriptive, of the problem that Moby’s newest album contains the lyrics “we could feel this way forever.” From a guy that devoted an entire disc of a double album to mixes a track entitled “Go,” it’s a curious move. For those who have been following Moby’s career, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise though. Moby is finally comfortable. And, for fans of his music, there are hardly worse words to hear.
Unlike his wide-ranging first albums and the ultra-successful Play, both 18 and Hotel have seen His Baldness mining the same types of sounds. His move towards guitars can’t be faulted. What can be faulted is the fact that with that move, his music has lost a large degree of the vitality that it once held. Gone is the push/pull of the schizophrenic sequencing. Frustratingly, it’s replaced with a common tempo and cohesiveness that’s meant to be a marker of maturity, but instead comes off as stultifying.
That’s most easily seen in the three-song run during the middle of Hotel, which features the much-talked about cover to “Temptation,” “Spiders,” and “Dream About Me.” Whatever you think about the New Order song (I’ll use the non-descriptor “pleasant”), it’s hardly debatable that this string of songs kills any sort of momentum that might have been built in the album’s opening stages.
It’s followed up by the Everything is Wrong-lite of “Very,” a shallow reminder of times past when each song would be radically different from the next. Unfortunately, it’s followed up by three more songs of airy ambient guitar pop before the closing duo of “Forever” and “Homeward Angel” close out the album in his typical style.
The essential problem with the aforementioned guitar pop that permeates Hotel is that Moby is, and may always be, an electronic producer. That is to say, all of his productions even when using “rock” instruments reek of the simplistic and heavenly four-chord format that has informed so much of his work. Much in the same way that a rock band has trouble convincingly moving to electronic music, Moby also falls on the same tricks that once made him successful.
But don’t take my word for it. There are apparently legions of fans that love 18 and based on first-week sales in Europe, Hotel will once again be a sales success. Frankly, I don’t get it. Just as Moby is beginning to make his most pedestrian and contrived music, his popularity blossoms. People late to the game must be thinking one of two things: a) this is what all the hubbub is about? or b) this is something I’ve never heard before! In either case, pity is the first word that comes to mind.
Reviewed by: Charles Merwin
Reviewed on: 2005-03-24