With the less successful album releases of the downtempo atmospherics of 2002's 18 and the guitar-driven sounds of 2005's Hotel, many have wondered what happened to the Moby that generated the massively successful Play album that made electronic music sound mainstream with its distorted breakbeats and mournful blues samples. Play was definitely the most commercial and artistic high point of Moby's career but it seemed that success left Moby a bit confused with what direction he wanted to go to next. The decline in the quality of his music and his fanbase due to the perceived notion that he was a sell-out and his dispute with Eminem caused many to question if Moby's career was coming to a close. Moby though decided to return to DJing and tried getting back to his roots and the reason why he loved music. It is from these experiences that Moby has decided to release a new album that reflects his love for the New York club and music scene that has molded him for many years. The new release that reflects his rebirth into dance music is called Last Night and it definitely marks a different turn than his past two efforts.
Last Night reflects back to a certain degree to Play with its somber synth strings and soulful female vocals but yet it definitely maintains its own characteristics. Gone are any vocal tracks from Moby himself and the songs seem a bit less commercial than those that were spawned from Play. Last Night actually feels like it should have followed the Everything is Wrong album from 1995 with its surveying a wide survey of various sounds of electronic and soulful dance music that reflects the 25 years of club life that Moby loves and embraces. While conceptual in nature, Last Night serves as a nostalgic trip down clubland lane from Moby's perspective and from that standpoint, it has mixed results. While several of the tracks are inspired, some of the tracks seemed lost in the concept and seem to drag the album down.
The first track off the album is the somewhat stale and uninspired retro-disco-flavored "Ooh Yeah" which comes off a bit generic for me and really doesn't establish any energy for someone who is going to dance the night away. A little heat is generated though with the mambo sway of "I Love to Move in Here" which features the legendary Grandmaster Caz and generates a certain seductive energy that lures you as if you are about to enter a club.
The mood switches to hypnotic with tracks like "Alice" and the seductive "Hyenas" that seem to float over their respective club beat and "Alice" proves to be the defining moment of Last Night with its slow trip-hop vibe. The playful synth of "I'm in Love" tries to recreate the soulful vibe of some earlier tracks on the album but comes off more generic and less memorable. The same can't be said though for "Disco Lies" which again brings out the soulful diva wailing against a thumping dance beat that sounds like liberation on the dance floor. "The Stars" is another track like "I'm in Love" which has good really good intentions at first but just fails to generate any real feeling.
Just like any club experience though, you eventually have to come down and the last four tracks seem more content to induce a slothful slumber and bring the overall effort of the whole album down. While tracks like the sleeper "Sweet Apocalypse" and the somewhat fuzzy "Degenerates" remain solely instrumental tracks, the last track, which happens to be the title track, uses less than stellar vocals while ending the track with an odd jazzy piano combination. The track definitely seems a world apart from the earlier tracks and, unfortunately, that is what the listeners are left with remembering at the end.
While I have to admit that Last Night is definitely a step forward compared to Moby's last two efforts, it definitely seems to lack some elements that made Play such an amazing listen. There are some amazing tracks on this album and they seem to soar the most when Moby plays against soulful diva vocals and creates music that just seems to swell inside of you and definitely empowers you and makes you want to dance the night away. Unfortunately though there are several tracks that either border almost generic or lack real character and seem more like failed attempts at rehashing previous albums. Last Night is definitely a solid effort and hopefully Moby will use it as a stepping stone to go back to creating music that really does inspire while being creative and original at the same time.
Released April 1, 2008 on Mute Records