Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Moby

  • Moby [Instinct, 1992] **
  • Ambient [Instinct, 1993] ***
  • Move [Elektra, 1993] A-
  • Everything Is Wrong [Elektra, 1995] A-
  • Animal Rights [Elektra, 1997] A-
  • I Like to Score [Elektra, 1997] Dud
  • Play [V2, 1999] A+
  • 18 [V2, 2002] *
  • Hotel [V2, 2005] **
  • Go: The Very Best of Moby [V2, 2006]
  • Last Night [Mute, 2008] ***
  • Wait for Me [Mute, 2009] A-
  • Destroyed [Mute, 2011] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Moby [Instinct, 1992]
trancelike or ecstatic, techno with a spirit-feel--modest and luxuriant, compelling and humane ("Go," "Electricity") **

Ambient [Instinct, 1993]
his best since Before and After Science ("Heaven," "J Breas") ***

Move [Elektra, 1993]
Ignore techno all you want, you'll still be stuck with Moby. Surrounded by meaningless glitz, he's subtle not so he won't offend but because he thinks musical sensationalism is a means to spiritual exaltation. And because he's subtle he'll be large--sooner or later he'll devise something else as universal as "Go," and when he does his label will be prepared to cross it over. Meanwhile there's this half-hour foray into the big time, keyed to the divaesque title anthem and including electronic tribal drums, drumless atmospherics, and a six-minute symphony you can dance to. A-

Everything Is Wrong [Elektra, 1995]
Is it strange that a studio wizard of Moby's evident genius makes such flawed records? Not if he's really a dancefloor wizard--not if the communal-ecstatic is his artistic ground. Where in concert he subsumes rockist guitar and classical pretensions in grand, joyous rhythmic release, on album his distant dreams remain tangents. "What Love" challenges Metallica as incidentally as "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" does Philip Glass, and all I can say for sometime cocomposer Mimi Goese is that she sounded even prissier in Hugo Largo. Martha Wash, call your agent. I mean, he's a Christian, girl. A-

Animal Rights [Elektra, 1997]
To his credit, the hustling little visionary didn't go for an ingratiating follow-up. With the vocals proffering all the human comfort of a loony bin, the hortatory punk with which he betrays his appointed calling assails the central nervous system even more abrasively than his electroraves did. I mean, why do you think they call both styles hardcore? But on the one-CD U.S. version the calmer techno his U.K. label relegated to a bonus disc cuts the speed-rock sex and desperation, so that the two musics enrich and play off each other with the flow and coherence Everything Is Wrong lacks (meaningfully, perhaps by design, but lacks nevertheless). "Alone" wouldn't assuage the way it does if just minutes earlier he hadn't been swearing "When you're fucking me it powers up my soul" in his best messiah-cum-ubermensch monotone. A-

I Like to Score [Elektra, 1997] Dud

Play [V2, 1999]
I doubt the hyperactive little imp sat down and "composed" here. There are no reports he even strove to unify la DJ Shadow. And Endtroducing . . . is the reference point nevertheless. It's because Moby still loves song form that he elects to sample Alan Lomax field recordings rather than garage-sale instrumental and spoken-word LPs. But though the blues and gospel and more gospel testify not just for song but for body and spirit, they wouldn't shout anywhere near as loud and clear without the mastermind's ministrations--his grooves, his pacing, his textures, his harmonies, sometimes his tunes, and mostly his grooves, which honor not just dance music but the entire rock tradition it's part of. Although the futurist's dream of Blind Willie Johnson that opens this complete work was some kind of hit in England, here it'll be strictly for aesthetes. We've earned it. A+

18 [V2, 2002]
visionary self-starter generates commercial formula generates foregone conclusion ("In This World," "We Are All Made of Stars") *

Hotel [V2, 2005]
Prefer him to Julian Cope, not to mention Phil Oakey, and she holds up fine against Sarah Cracknell, never mind Martha Wash ("I Like It," "Where You End"). **

Go: The Very Best of Moby [V2, 2006]
Seven years later, Moby has constructed an album as seductively sequenced and in-your-face melodic as Play, and give him credit--he recycled only five Play tracks doing it. Give him less credit for weighting a 16-song best-of so heavily toward his present label. Moby, a man who know the permissions game, clearly decided that pulling Nineties keepers off his Elektra and Instinct albums wasn't worth the tariff, at least not to him--Everything Is Wrong's "God Moving on the Face of the Waters" is his only concession. He compensates with an intense, toasted-up live "Feeling So Real" and a fleshed-out remake of his 1991 classic "Go." Both these tracks typify an album that doesn't depend exclusively on borrowed black people as human signifiers, at once more rock and more techno than Play. And you needn't be a dance geek to play the bonus disc of fave remixes in your living room. [Rolling Stone: 4]

Last Night [Mute, 2008]
There are cornier ways of keeping it old-school ("Everyday It's 1989," "I Love to Move in Here"). ***

Wait for Me [Mute, 2009]
You'd think the little egomaniac had made some version of this elegiac, atmospheric, predominantly instrumental album before. He's always had a weakness for quiet grandeur, a knack too, and his very first longform was called Ambient. But in fact the style of beauty here is something new for him, and though the album may seem contemplative, depressive is probably more like it--desolate even. What lyrics there are mourn absence and loss, and many of the effects are achieved by fabricating and then calibrating dirty sonics both electronic and organic. My Bloody Valentine obsessives should check it out--though it is prettier, a spiritual accomplishment and a relief. A-

Destroyed [Mute, 2011]
The 18 to Wait for Me's Play--only not by as decisive a margin, these things are subtle (too subtle) ("The Broken Places," "The Day") ***

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