Moby – Play
I don’t believe in God, but, hypothetically speaking, if Moby’s body became possessed by Jesus Christ, I doubt anyone would know the difference. He’d have the same vegan eating habits, the same wise strong-but-silent facial expressions, the same opinions which set up camp on the moral high ground and, of course, he’d still make the most glorious, transcendent music. Moby’s other albums (bar the grunge-y misguided ‘Animal Rights’) were solid techno throughout, but really good if you’re into that sort of thing. ‘Play’ on the other hand was braver, more innovative and saw more fans being drawn out than the audience at a hot sticky Victorian theatre. This is a masterclass of approachable, accessible electronica – with want of a better word, since for the most part it totally belies its technological origins. A big chunk of these 18 tracks use samples from blues records collected by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1959. Far from making some sick concoction like coke and milk does, the music and samples complement each other beautifully. Moby himself sings here and there too; his voice is nothing special, but it doesn’t really need to be since the songs are so strong. He even recites strange spoken-word poetry in two of the songs which are as atmospheric as some of Brian Eno’s best ambient excursions (not that Eno ever tried spoken word poetry). ‘Play’ dabbles in gorgeous ambient pop, film-score-esque soundscapes that border on classical composition, quirky hip-hop influenced rock and head-nodding quasi-dance tracks along with a set of other fingers in various other pies too (if you giggled at that metaphor, take your mind out of the gutter and go and stand in the corner). The most out-of-place song here is ‘Machete’, a throbbing, paranoid techno track which doesn’t break the flow of the record, but remains thrilling on its own. Atmospheric, enveloping, smart, addictive and often deeply emotional, it’s small wonder why this became the first album to have every track featured in an advert, TV show or film. Even less wonder why it shifted 10 million copies. But sales and media usage are totally irrelevant. What matters is that ‘Play’ belongs in every music collection because of sheer quality and diversity. Still doubting that he can pass for Jesus?
Listen to: Honey
100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #7
Moby – Play