Moby – Hotel

Like predecessor ’18’ it may not reach the heady heights of ‘Play’ but nonetheless it reeks of quality throughout.

Like predecessor ’18’ it may not reach the heady heights of ‘Play’ but nonetheless it reeks of quality throughout.


Leonie Cooper from the NME recently called Moby “the world’s most odious vegan midget.”


Moby does, to be fair, invariably attract a load of flak from the general muso community. A lot of people have niggles and minor gripes that always seem to get a good airing when the music chat turns to Moby. “He may be a techno dance pioneer but he sold out rave music, becoming a greedy commercial artist, interested in creating unit sales from his plagiaristic sampling. He’s a boring Christian do-gooder. He’s a rich kid, big gobbed American, too fookin’ clever for his own good. He’s too spiritual to be true. Bloody new age hippy. He’s bald and bespectacled. He has his own New York Tea shop and brand of Tea for fuck’s sake!”


First contact with Moby in my world came during my extended flirtation with dance and rave culture in the early nineties. ‘Go’ remains one of the all time great rave anthems. The twists and turns of this New Yorker’s career thro’ his innovative techno God time and then his “back to his youth” thrash punk mid nineties period until the world conquering gospel, blues, hip hop, dance hybrid ofPlay’ in 1999, have been well documented. The weirdo, God loving DJ developed into a strong, single minded, multi talented musician who’s creative drives saw him eclectically absorbing and reproducing musical styles without any real regard for critical repercussion. He stuck his head above the parapet. As we all know he sold a lot of records (and cars) in the ensuing years and is now a very rich man who, artistically, can continue to do whatever he wants. The flak seems to bounce off.


Fundamentally Moby is a maverick, a misfit, his musical journey encompassing more genres than I can list, with every album confounding expectation. He got rich by being maverick and now he can be as maverick, as true to his drives as he wants.


‘Hotel’ has no samples whatsoever. A large chunk of this record was made at home. Like predecessor ’18’ it may not reach the heady heights of ‘Play’ but nonetheless it reeks of quality throughout.


Moby plays all instruments except drums. He sings on 10 of the 14 tracks. If I was looking for a neat sound bite to sum this opening segment of the record up, “a collection of vocal melodic pop songs” would just about suffice for the first 5 vocal numbers. (And indeed for the 4 tracks before the finale.)


The record’s instrumental intro is actually a bit retro. It has a “Go” feel to it. (That’s enough techno for now.) Raining Again has a fast manic drum beat, a big fat sing along thumping chorus with loads of swirling guitars. The single Beautiful follows. The album really kicks into life at this point. He struts through this stomp loaded with tongue in cheek observations on the vanities of his musical showbiz compatriots. The anthem Lift Me Up has radio hit written in thick black marker all over it and for some reason I get the sense he will be able to mix this particular number into something really spectacular live. Track 5, Where You End is The Beloved’s ‘Happiness’ era revamped and regurgitated. His vocal has a subtle, lazy John Lennon, sexy dry croak over a swirling melody and with an overall excellent, happy, upbeat, sunny day vibe. If Spiders is supposed to be a “Massive Attack with David Bowie on vocal” hybrid, then it works admirably. In fact, as this album continues the Bowie influences on his singing style become more and more apparent and certainly on these few tracks you feel the retro’ seventies glamour shining through.


From track 6 onwards the feel of ‘Hotel’ takes a subtle but noticeable change in direction for a time. We have moved away from the hotel bar and lounge it seems! (Have a look at the website that markets this new album:  Much like the CD packaging, in concept and design it’s absolutely outstanding!)


Coupled with Spiders, Moby’s version of New Order’s ‘Temptation’, becomes the double headed centre piece of the album. This colossal, sweeping ballad stacked with melancholic uplift introduces the graceful, sensuous voice of Laura Dawn to the record. Miss Dawn’s larynx proves to be a startling addition, adding intimacy and some needed sex appeal to the record. She dominates three songs on the trot, beginning with her breathless performance on the verses of Dream About Me before allowing Moby’s voice to blend in subserviently on the chorus. Very and I Like It follow. The tempo and the inherent theatrics in the album have now noticeably changed. Very has an old school electro disco vibe with a bit of high pitched Jimmy Somervillesque singing throw in for good measure! I Like It again has a retro trance dance feel, but this time more like Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’/ ‘Vogue’ sex goddess period after the soap opera 80’s vaudeville of it’s predecessor.


The direction of the album then U turns as Moby’s voice returns to centre stage and more straight forward singer songwriter stuff follows. Love Should and Slipping Away are acoustic ballads surrounded with chunky piano chords, synthesized strings and beats, and effortless melodies over more Bowie-like vocals from Mr. Hall. Very radio friendly and I suppose it could be called hippy shit 2005 style! I reach Forever, the penultimate track, and as a gentle ballad enfolds I realise I haven’t been listening to a dance record and in fact only the songs with Laura Dawn could be vaguely placed in that genre. Like its beginning the album ends with a simple instrumental, Homeward Angel that I have, in truth, had difficulty listening to all the way through as it could be feasibly played in a hotel elevator!


(At this point I better confess to deliberately not attempting to review the limited edition release of ‘Hotel’ as provided by the Incendiary editors, largely because the extra CD is entitled ‘Hotel Ambient’ and as those chemical protectors of many a garden Ronseal would quip, it does exactly what it says on the tin! It’s ambient.)


The lyrical content of the album deals mainly with love issues and the subsequent finding, maintaining and sometimes the losing of important relationships. So the record has a veritable gamut of emotional and spiritual context. Sometimes heartfelt and gloomy, exuding discontentment, at others the words soaring with new love’s fresh optimism and in turn conversely pessimistic, weary and melancholic. Temptation was included because it fitted perfectly with the album’s general outlook and described Moby’s personal feelings on one particular occurrence in his life better than he could himself.


Overall ‘Hotel’ has a maturity you would expect from an artist who has been writing, recording and performing for 20 years and who has a reported 5000 unreleased songs stored away for future use! (You licking your lips, Leonie?) The US promotional tour for the album has been almost entirely low key, mainly featuring Moby on his own with an acoustic guitar with vocalists Butler and Dawn occasionally joining him for stripped bare reworkings of old classics. The summer months promises a larger scale European jaunt but according to the man himself, much less extravagant, self indulgent and less complicated than 2003’s ’18’ tour.


Richard Melville Hall aka Moby happens to be one of those personalities that I can’t help but like, whether I get off on his musical output or not! (He is actually distantly related to the author of “Moby Dick”, Herman Melville!) I do not believe his political views are necessarily self centred or designed in anyway to ingratiate himself to new markets of potential fans, improve his public profile or to indeed purely sell his records. He has always come across as an intelligent artist with a realistic view of his musical and commercial environment. He has talent and knows how to use it. He has always been able and willing to defend his work against detractors with continuing success and moreover, 30 million plus unit sales worldwide speak for themselves.


As I write, ‘Hotel’ is enjoying its second week at the top of Europe‘s album chart. The album has sufficient single material to undoubtedly keep it selling for some time to come. It seems the world has a place for odious vegan midgets (as well as for bitter and undoubtedly frigid music journo’s) after all! (Anybody can take a cheap shot, Leonie!)


Why does it matter that his fan base remains a healthy mix of the rich and the ignorant?!