Album: Moby, "Destroyed" (Mute)
After several years bouncing back and forth between his twinned-but-not-conjoined personas of electronic music genius/dancefloor whiz kid and Bowie-inspired chameleonic pop star, Moby has finally settled the issue on his latest album, "Destroyer," and the answer appears to be: both?
This new record seems to want it both ways. Tracks alternate between Moby's chillout takes on rave afterparty music and poppy bits of fluff that would have seemed inconsequential even on the performer's largely inconsequential "Hotel" album six years ago, his first real stab at stepping out from behind the technology and showcasing his skills -- or lack thereof -- in the frontman department.
As a result, "Destroyed" -- ostensibly the album's theme is the grind and dislocation he feels spending inordinate amounts of time on the road and in strange cities; likewise "Hotel" concerned the vast amounts of his life spent in hotels -- feels disparate and disconnected, a wide-ranging effort that will largely fail to please either Moby's now-dwindling core audience of electronic music aficionados, or his more recent converts who come for the catchy hooks and sexy backup singer vocals.
In an even more disturbing development, Moby has chosen to open a third front in his assault on consistency, that of a John Tesh-style classical-cum-operatic maestro, and this is a cloak that badly does not wish to fit. The ponderous "Stella Maris" tries vainly to evoke the crystalline beauty of Moby's 2000 classic "Porcelain," but feels suspiciously like soundtrack music for a Playstation role-playing game about dragons. The sense of foreboding only deepens as the following two cuts -- the Philip Glass-inspired "The Violent Bear It Away" and the lachrymose "Lacrimae" -- clock in at almost 15 minutes combined.
The set is not without moments that hint at what could have been. "Lie Down in Darkness" is gorgeous, haunting and just the right length, and "Victoria Lucas" and "Sevastopol" blend dubstep elements into Moby's traditional electrostew, suggesting that the performer is at least still interested in the sorts of sounds his peers are now making, and the closing "Sandpaper," while unoriginal, at least contains the sort of persistent beat/sample/vocal combination that made the man a dancefloor mainstay in his early years on the nightclub scene.
But viewing as a whole reveals "Destroyed" as a vastly flawed album, one that could have been improved merely by making less of it -- at 70-plus minutes, the set begins to wear on a listener less than halfway through it; doing nothing else but listening to the album, I began to worry that it would never actually end at one point. Surely some of the strangely out-of-place and mildly bombastic classical experiments could have been sacrificed for the sake of a tighter, more cohesive set.
Or is Moby now so entrenched inside his penthouse suites -- staring out at cities at 2 a.m. and dreaming of airports -- that he has forgotten the sorts of sounds people still want to hear when they step outside of them?