Here’s smugness for you: I was listening to Moby at seventeen. Based on nothing but a couple of approving profiles in Details during its James Truman heyday, I bought the first album in fall ’92, alternating play with Utah Saints’ eponymous debut. It remains a solid album, besotted with the stadium chants of Eurotechno and pretty house melodies whose echoes I hear in freestyle records. I stayed a listener through curiously overrated Everything is Wrong, which every American critic willed into being a masterpiece in 1995. After the triumph of Move, still his best longform record even though it’s an EP, Everything is Wrong was schlocky, a lapidary step into the assurances of New Age (“God Moving Over the Face of the Waters”); even the diva appearances sounded compromised (“Into the Blue,” gross). Those on the hunt for low key Moby should stream or buy Ambient, a record I prefer to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works.
The success of Play still looks like one of those flukes only possible in 1999 and 2000, like the WAZZUUUPPP video/proto-meme and the candidacy of Bill Bradley. Also, although it garnered deafeningly positive reviews, none of my dance-loving friends liked it much; during chill-out moments after hours (no comment) Orbital’s “The Box” remained a perennial around mixes of Everything But the Girl’s “Temperamental.” I can’t knock it, though: as gateway it’s unimpeachable; as a harbinger of how to sell music after the boom times collapsed, it startles. However, Play convinced Moby he could sing a lot on a record, and sing like a pop star, and, boy, did he take to it bad. But “We Are Made of Stars,” with its video populated by early Bush II-era has-beens like J.C. Chasez and Thora Birch, works, is a vaporous bliss-out of a single, Moby’s frail voice aiming for a Bowie-level awareness of how quickly fame flashes.
I’m startled that he’s released five subsequent albums.
1. Move (You Make Me Feel So Good)
2. Next is the E
4. Everytime You Touch Me
5. Drop a Beat
6. All That I Need is To Be Loved
8. The Rain Falls and the Sky Shudders
9. South Side
10. Feeling So Real
11. Guitar Flute & String
12. Drop a Beat
15. Have You Seen My Baby
16. Now I Let It Go
17. We Are Made of Stars
19. My Beautiful Blue Sky
20. Natural Blues