Saturday, January 23, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 82: Moby

The CD Odyssey is really all over the place these days - we went from rock to swing, and now on to some kind of electronic-pop fusion thing.

Trying to label this album was kind of hard, and got Sheila and I into a serious discussion of what is 'pop' or 'rock' or 'electronica'. This album seems to be two of the three - and you can figure out pretty quickly which two. If not, this post has labels.

Disc 82 is...18

Artist: Moby

Year of Release: 2002

How I Came To Know It: The album before this "Play" was owned by everyone and their dog. We liked it, and so bought the next one Moby put out. Behold, I am dog.

How It Stacks Up: We have 2 Moby CDs (as noted above). I love neither, but like both. I think I like "18" more.

Rating: 3 stars.

Moby and Phatboy Slim are probably the furthest I've ventured into electronic music and still liked it. It has to have some pop sensibilities for me to find the groove. "18" certainly has those, and I'm sure many would not even call what he does 'electronica'. I will, though.

This album has a good groove, and it is well constructed. I like that Moby has a little essay in the jacket sleeve where he asks the listener to give it at least one listen right through as an album. As a major apologist for the lost art of the album, this hit a soft spot.

I didn't like that this same essay refused to capitalize the "I" in "I'm". E.E. Cummings shouldn't do it, and neither should you Moby - it smacks of a false humility.

Lyrically, this album doesn't have much going on. The songs are about the music, not the words. I do like that the vocals are used to strongly evoke emotion, often through a phrase consistently repeated. For example, in "At Least We Tried"

"Oh now baby don't cry
Oh now baby say goodbye
Oh now baby don't cry
Oh now baby at least we tried"

This is a strong track about relationship breakdown, where a very basic line, repeated, underscores the sadness.

The album is not just emotionally true to itself, but that emotion has a good range - by which I mean it isn't just depressing. "Jam for the Ladies" stands out as a funky party song, which had me thinking strangely of Kool & the Gang's "Ladies Night".

I also like that Moby has collected some great vocalists - most of whom I had never heard of, with the exception of Sinead O'Connor who appears on "Harbour". The songs with Moby singing I didn't necessarily enjoy as much - or maybe I just liked the variety of voices. "Harbour" certainly reminded me of how much I used to like my Sinead O'Connor tapes, which I never replaced on CD. Maybe, one day...

The music wasn't organic enough for me - which is my usual complaint with electronica. That said, my other complaint with electronica - the repetition - wasn't a problem for me on "18", I think because the songs are short set pieces. That, and the singing helps the ear break it up a bit.

My main complaint is an old saw - it has 18 tracks. Way too many for an album. Worse, Moby says in his essay that he started with 150 songs and was sorry that he had to cut 132.

Worst of all, he called the album "18". Are you TRYING to piss me off, Moby? Are you INTENDING to break my balls? Cut five songs from this album and five more from "Play" and you'd have another album! You could call it "Ten". Oh, wait - that's taken.

Anyway, despite the length, and the occasional hiccup, for the most part this is a strong record, and I really enjoyed driving around to it for the last couple of days.

Best tracks: In My Heart, Great Escape, Extreme Ways, Jam For The Ladies, At Least We Tried, Harbour

1 comment:

Joel C said...

...I guess I was everyone...I owned 'Play' but never bought '18', probably because the former got to

I have to strongly agree with the axe you grind on album length. I'm a strong proponent of the 11 song album, but I prefer your rule - and have since adopted it; If it wouldn't fit on an LP, don't inculde in on a CD (to paraphrase)

On that note...I have an axe to grind with Bonus tracks on re-issued albums...

but I'll save that for a future comment