We must give Moby credit for not rewriting his biggest seller, Play, over and over again. Moby has always been a bit like Bowie in his mercurial shifts in taste and style. And like Bowie and anyone else willing to try something different, not every shot hits the target. The possibility and price of experimentation is failure. While failure is too strong a word to describe the entirety of More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse, so is success. To some extent, it’s a pastiche and collage of earlier work with its use of electronica and distorted rock/punk, but it doesn’t reach the levels of the early Moby catalog that it draws from. It’s neither as rough as it wants to be nor as developed as it needs to be.
“Silence” starts the album with a fuzzed-out, repetitive guitar riff. A pounding drumbeat kicks in. Various electronic sounds buzz in and out. The chorus lightens up, and everything kicks in all at once. It’s not a bad track by any means. This is more or the less the formula that the first few tracks follow except for “There’s Nothing Wrong With the World There’s Something Wrong with Me”, which slows things down enough to approach new wave. Just when it’s all getting a little tiresome, “All the Hurts We Made” comes in. Beginning with lush orchestration and switching to the same fuzzy guitar and electronic scribbles, all the elements come together and create a great song.
The album’s lyrics are mostly inscrutable. Lines such as “Come on sit here my sweet son / Come on sit here in the sun / If you like you can always stay / The academy won’t turn you away” are not abstract poetry; they are just abstract and impenetrable. We’re shut out. If the music and songs were stronger, they would divert some of the attention from the words. For example, when Moby wonders in “All the Hurts We Made”, “What to do with old dreams? / To feel a new kind of pain / As the sun pulls behind the sky / I’d rather die than feel this pain” the music supports the words and everything works.
“In This Cold Place” comes across pretty well but this may be due to the refresher provided by “All the Hurts We Made”. The herky-jerky “If Only a Correction of All We’ve Been” borders on annoying and the revved up “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye” doesn’t add much. By the time we push into “A Happy Song”, it’s just another track of what we have already heard.
There is a lot of energy evident in these tracks, but it’s misused. Instead of revitalization, there is misdirection. Ultimately, it feels like a solo album in which a band member feels a need to follow a personal agenda and take a direction that falls outside of the band’s scope. Such albums often fail to connect with a larger audience.
If you were a fan of These Systems Are Failing, the first release with the Void Pacific Choir, as his group of collaborators is named, you’ll be a fan of this also because both releases are quite similar. Currently, there is a download of both albums available at no cost. As Moby explains, “the music is free here, but if you want to pay for it just give money to your favorite charity”. He then proceeds to list some very worthy causes.
Why has Moby doubled down on his current sound? The best explanation is that Moby enjoys his current direction. Maybe that is and should be enough for him, but it isn’t enough for all of his listeners. One of these albums could be accepted as personal indulgence and experimentation. Two seem selfish. Moby continues to flip though and blend genres and, like a slot machine, he may eventually hit another jackpot, but for now, the symbols aren’t lining up and paying off. Perhaps Play X wouldn’t have been such a bad release.
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