Whatever you think of the fact that “Play” is the first album in history to have every single track licensed for advertising (and its 420+ adverts to date), there is no doubting that it is Moby’s finest, most cohesive album to date. Surely its mass media manipulation and overkill has some bearing on the fact that’s its sold 5 million copies this year so far, a ridiculous amount of records, Moby cross over artist of the ear without doubt.
Of course, when a record company sells records, the first thing it wants to do is sell even more. That’s where this little idea of “Play” the boxset comes in. Now, yet another ploy to sell yet more records, the almost obligatory double CD extra exclusive tracks idea. Now, Moby has done this for both of his previous studio releases to date (the guitarpunk ambient “Animal Rights” and the wildly eclectic “Everything is Wrong”), so this should come as little surprise, except to those Moby fans (like myself) who already own the album, it’s a rip off. Especially if you’ve bought all six of the singles, as many Moby fans have, and both CD’s of them too… but that aside, if you don’t own “play” already, this is the best opportunity to snap it up. And there’s more singles to come too…
“Play” itself is a stunningly crafted album, seamlessly and shamelessly stealing old blues and soul records into a new blueprint that curiously retro yet so very now it seems like it’ll be out of date in half an hour… yet somehow remaining timeless. Its no coincidence that the singles you know (Honey, Run on, Why does my heart feel so bad?) are all the ones with the vocal hooks stolen from old soul singers, underlain with soothing and smooth synth lines and catchy beats. That’s the key to it’s timelessness, the fact that these songs have already been around for decades before Moby reworked the vocals and claimed them as his own, which of course, they’re not. It’s like hes decided to take all the things that made Massive attack and Roni Size so favourable to the coffee table market, and exploit it for every last shifted unit of product. I can just see this album permeating every party for the next 10 years…like the advertising execs in 1991,around with “Nevermind” blasting out of their car stereos proclaiming it like so cutting edge…the album is however, as cutting edge as a chocolate fire guard wrapped in asbestos.
The album is devoid of the unusual eclecticness that marks Moby out as a unique artist: whereas “Animal Rights” was in the most part a full on metal-punk album, and “Everything is Wrong” varied from classical piano to thrash metal, “Play” inhabits an entirely different sonic palette. It’s a lot less varied, with no guitar tracks at all, ranging from cheesy dance to the soulful coffee table d n’ b pop that seems to his speciality. An unexceptional album, except of course, if you wonder how the hell its sold so many copies. An album whose impact has been diminished by over-familiarity, by over exposure, by its very blandness.
The main attraction of this reissue is “Play: the B-Sides”, the second CD of this collection, featuring 11 tracks not on the original album. Whereas the original Album of play has 18 tracks in 64 minutes, this second CD puts in 11 tracks in just over an hour, allowing the ideas more room to develop and expand. If anything, this B-Sides album is a sister album to its original, and a great many tracks would not have been out of place on the original. The B-sides album is also a lot less commercial, but nonetheless smooth and delicate. Owing more to the smooth melodic electronic listening music techno of Moby’s own “Voodoo Child” side project, which was designed to allow Moby to make electronica fairly anonymously, this album is a smooth electronic soundscape. With the exception of one track this album is mostly uninterrupted by his annoying habit of stealing vocal hooks from the talented. The opening track “Flower”, (which you may know as the opening credits of the otherwise lame actioneer “Gone in 60 seconds”), once a contender for a single, is the highlight (although this is the track with the vocal hook on it, again stolen from the an old soul/blues record). The rest of the second CD is following similar sonic territory as the “Play” CD, and to the most extent interchangable, smooth, clean, melodic, unexceptional but mainly pleasant. If you don’t own the album, and want it , buy this version, otherwise, pass it by. There far more radical music out there, you won’t miss it. It’ll wash over you like the waves on the beach. Its about as cutting edge as a soft plushie wrapped in asbestos. But in the nicest possible way of course.
6Graham Reed's Score