Last Night is the latest artist album from electronic music tastemaker Moby. From his early techno and rave days, on through his more recent multi-platinum crossover efforts, Moby has consistently surprised fans and bucked conventional chart trends by forging out on his own.
From underground revolution (the seminal track "Go") to commercial disaster (the Animal Rights album), all the way to global chart domination (remember Play?), Moby has endured and seemingly thrived on being the maverick of electronic music. Unfortunately, however, that sense of reckless innovation and experimentation has largely been lost with this new record.
Things start off poorly with the tepid "Ooh Yeah." It sounds like what people twice Moby's age must think a night at a club sounds like. It's bland lack of energy leaves a poor first impression. Which is unfortunate, because it is followed by the much stronger "I Love To Move In Here." With its combination of sultry female vocals and a rap courtesy of Grandmaster Caz, it delivers the kind of energy and unique angle that would have made a much better lead. In fact, it's this blend of hip-hop guests on top of Moby's programming where the record becomes really interesting and nice. The lead single "Alice" is the highlight of the record, but is a tease when positioned next to some of the lesser tracks around it.
The downturn continues with several more uninspired songs, such as "Live For Tomorrow," "The Stars," and "Everyday It's 1989." It's not that they're bad necessarily, but rather weak versions of tracks Moby has created before. There is a pervading film of deja vu that hangs over the record. If you're unburdened by knowledge of his previous work, you can probably have a pretty good visit here. But for the more frequent traveler, the painted backgrounds that scroll by will appear all too familiar.
To be fair, there are some genuinely nice moments to the album as well. In addition to the previously mentioned "Alice" and "I Love To Move In Here," the retro vibe brought to "257.zero" shows what Moby can do with classic sounds and a seasoned ear for the dance floor. "Hyenas" showcases a leftfield take on Moby's guitar-driven sound to nice and spacious effect. And the closer and title track "Last Night" exhibits the lush and glacially slow after-hours style Moby has perfected.
But the tracks on Last Night vary in quality from interesting at the top end, down to "moby cliche" at the bottom. Moby is still stretching the sounds and styles, both programmed and otherwise, that have been already mined during his last several albums (and more, if you take into account some b-sides collections). There was a time when the only thing you could count on with a Moby album was the fact that it would sound markedly different from his previous efforts. In this new era, that sense of adventure and exploration has been lost, and it is sorely missed.
Overall, Last Night feels like an afterthought album, overburdened with tracks that sound like they didn't quite make the cut in previous years. Although it's not bad, it is crippled by the memory of far better albums from Moby that have come before, and ones that had considerably more focus and originality.