After hearing this newest release from Moby, I'm convinced that he really enjoys throwing people for a loop. After being on the scene for quite some time, he released the critically acclaimed Everything Is Wrong, but followed it up with the bipolar Animal Rights. Even though it contained some nice moments (and even some nice ambience of old), it garnered a fairly weak response from people in general and faded away fast. Over the course of the next couple years, he seemed to lay a little bit lower, working on music for films (including a re-working of the James Bond theme) and released the related disc called, I Like To Score.
Fast forward to last year when the first single, "Honey" from his new album dropped and people were again confused. Instead of reverting back to the dancefloor beats and things that he was known for, it seemed that he threw another monkey in the wrench. The song revolved around a repetitive old-time sample and sounded like an electronic swamp-boogie with a bit of scratching and guitar picking for good measure. I have to admit that when I first heard it, I really didn't care for it a whole lot. It sounded a lot more simplistic than his previous work and I was hoping that it was more of an experiment before he released his full-length mastermind disc.
After finally listening to Play, I'll say that it's both his most varied, yet most accesible release to date. The reason it's so varied is for many different reasons. The disc starts off with the above-mentioned track "Honey," and goes all over the map for the next 17 tracks. The third track "Porcelain" sounds a lot more like Moby of old with its synth string flourishes and light beat, but like a couple other tracks on the disc, he also sings. While there is a strange vocodored-sounding effect on the track, it's a nice added element and it shows that he can do other things than just yell in his songs. The fifth track "South Side" is one that could be a verified hit if it catches on just right. It's a funky little electronic-pop jam that again features him on vocals and has one of the catchiest choruses I've heard in some time.
After "Rushing" (a track that sounds vaguely like "One Cool Hive" from Everything Is Wrong), the disc goes right into the third single from the album "Bodyrock." It samples a line from "Love Rap" by Spoony G And The Treacherous 3 and even though it has its cheesy moments, it's another catchy number. Things get harder in a hurry on the track "Machete" with the hardest and fastest beat on the disc. Clocking in at about 120 BPM, it's still not quite as fast as his dance tracks of old, but it works.
From there out, he does a blues/electronic/hip-hop hybrid ("Run On"), little bits of ambient filler ("7", "Guitar, Flute & String"), slow-beat spoken word ("If Things Were Perfect", "The Sky Is Broken"), and others. The disc closes out with what sounds like a vintage Moby ambient track in "My Weakness." All of the favorite elements are there, including the synth strings, the slow, simple piano part and a backing sample layed down behind it all. This time, it's of what sounds like a childrens choir, and it provides a nice wind-down until the disc stops spinning.
As I mention above, I think that the music on the disc is the most varied in sound from all his releases. Besides the one track, none of the beats are as cranked-up as usual and it seems he's instead chosen to make a more laid-back playful disc (hence the title?). The reason I say that it's also his most accesible album is both because of the length of the songs and the sounds that he encorporates. There are 18 tracks on the disc, but none of them fall prey to being overly long (a scourge that plagues quite a bit of electronic music). Instead, all the songs seem to be just the right length and some of them even leave you asking for a bit more. As also mentioned above, Moby wears almost all his influences on his sleeve on this one and there are bits of hip-hip (quite a bit), blues, rock, pop, techno, ambient, and even a touch of aggro on one track. It's a fun, varied excursion and one that shows he still isn't following the trends in electronic music, and instead trying to make some of his own. The little bald guy is back, and I for one am really glad.