V2 Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Maybe some major artists out there are waiting until the new century before turning out their latest work. So far, 1999, has turned up some pretty tame offerings. You would think some of the more notable artists out there would be pusing the deadlines to make their statements before the new millennium begins.

Fortunately, I was able to scrap up enough cash to buy Moby's new CD, Play. And so far, that is the only CD that I have listened to this year so far that would make me believe this is the last year of this century. By infusing some of this century's earliest genres of popular music (gospel) with elements of heavy metal and some of the newest genres of music (electronica), Play almost feels like a bookend for popular music in this century.

Halfway through the album, I could already count three or four songs that are destined to be classics, whether on the dance floor or on college rock stations. Indeed, part of the problem of Play is that a couple of songs in the first half practically double dog dare you not to hit the 'replay' button. Starting off with "Honey," the listener is greeted with a simple clap beat with the chanting of Bessie Jones. After a couple of stanzas, a tight, chrisp drum beat drops down. The gospel singer and the raver are now inseperable throughout the rest of the album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Infusing two different styles into one doesn't always make an artist innovative, however. For every artist who is able to meld two seemingly incompatable styles (i.e. gangsta rap and heavy metal or punk and gospel) there're scores of artists who make you think twice about putting differing genres together. But Moby, along with artists such as Bjork and the Chemical Brothers, have shown that by adding elements outside of electronica into their music makes their works resonate with a human warmth.

Other early highlights include the spacy, "South Side" and the ass-moving, club-throbbing, "Bodyrock." Moby, a devout Christian and an even more devout vegan, is no stranger to following strict doctorines. It is ironic that the most free-spirited album of the year would come from an artist who is associated with some of the most humorless people out there (extremely devout vegetarians and fundamentalist Christians).

But, according to his liner notes, Moby has no interest in excluding people from enjoying his music. And for the majority of Play, the album tremendously succeeds in pulling all genres together in a beautiful, cohesive collection. By using a bunch of musical historians and archivists, Moby has dug up some of the most inspired blues recordings for Play. In "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" we hear the Shining Light Gospel Choir. In "Natural Blues," we hear Vera Hall.

For a guy who refrains from alcohol or any other drug use, it's ironic that Play comes out as one of the best after-hours party albums to come out in a while. In the first half, we get most of the butt-shaking grooves of the entire album. For the last half of the album, we get a more chilled out side of Moby. The trio of songs, "Everloving," "Inside," and "Guitar flute & string" lay down trippy, mellow beats. Those three songs feel like the "chill out room" section of the album.

Some of Moby's earlier albums, like Everything Is Wrong and the metal-oriented Animal Rights, were able to give Moby a dedicated cult following as well as turn him into a critical icon. Now, with Play, it seems almost inevitable that Moby's star power is going to break out. It is probably without coincidence that Play is also Moby's most accessible album he's released. How well that suits Moby's fans is questionable. However, much like "Odelay," there isn't an album more deserving this year to hopefully break onto the Billboard charts. If you haven't already, go out and Play.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of V2 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.