Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt
What a long, strange trip it’s been for Moby. Toiling away making everyman techno and then that massive ‘discovery’ and suddenly you couldn’t watch a TV show, film or ad of an evening without hearing a refrain from a song Moby had stitched together using old blues samples and some downbeat, morose, lovely colours. And then it’s been – largely – diminishing returns with occasional glimpses of hope and heartbreak and loveliness in his downcast musical world.
If telling you that this brand new album is his best since the glory days means absolutely nothing to you, well, then, fair enough. Move on. But Everything Was Beautiful contains plenty of heart, some heart, far too much weariness and just enough musical gorgeousness. It’s a return, of sorts, one of Moby’s finest. And if you couldn’t care less that is totally understandable. But if you were interested but ultimately disappointed in albums like 18 and Hotel then Everything Was Beautiful should be the album for you.
In fact the real work started towards this a couple of years ago – with his lovely, loping extended playlist of mediation music and ambient moods and then choral-informed These Systems Are Failing.
Moby’s music is a colossal bummer these days, no bangers, no anthems, just pessimism – sometimes made to sound lovely, other times just forlorn. But thanks to a trio of fine singers in particular, Julie Mintz, Apollo Jane and Mindy Jones, and to the way Moby knows how to use his own brittle ‘voice’, we have some strong melodies and some snatches of lyrics to grab on to.
At 56 minutes I find the album a tough listen all the way through, but there’s enough to cherry-pick from it. And actually it’s Play that this album most resembles, or in fact Play: The B-Sides (which just might be Moby’s actual best ‘album’).
We open with Mere Anarchy, an introspective anthem in that its arrangement is windswept and interesting, expansive, if cautious. The Waste of Suns rides on a supple rhythm, something Tricky might have made once or twice before, Like A Motherless Child directly references the “Moby Trick” of taking a blues motif and marrying it to modern techno-derived groove. He’s done this sort of thing on most albums, but Raquel Rodriguez’s guest vocal for the chorus is what makes this one, er, sing.
The Last of Goodbyes feels like a rewrite of Porcleain and Guitar, Flute & String; takes us back to the Moby we can trust.
And The Tired And The Hurt and Welcome To Hard Times make weariness sound worth, lost hope seeming lovely.
But something has drawn me to this and not only this but back into Moby’s world. I rushed out to buy Play on vinyl after hearing this record. Something about The Middle Is Gone had me wanting to hear not only that but also Play’s closers, The Sky Is Broken and My Weakness.
Actually, Everything’s closers, This Wild Darkness and A Dark Cloud Is Coming could be appearing somewhere in an indie film near you. Or an advert, or on TV, or, well, here we (possibly) go again…