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Moby goes clubbing in “Last Night”

James Costa | Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Apparently Moby isn’t done clubbing.

After almost 25 years of frequenting the New York City club scene, digesting the beats, pulses and rhythms of electronic light and reverb circuses, he offers his newest album, “Last Night,” as a tribute to his many experiences of the past and his unquenchable thirst for finding new inspirations in the heat of the music.

The album marks a return to the style of his extraordinarily popular 1999 release “Play.” While his last two releases, 2002’s “18” and 2005’s “Hotel,” moved away from the dance music formula that “Play” utilized to enthrall his audience in an atmospheric and near semi-conscious realm of listening, “Last Night” capitalizes on the best elements of “Play” by offering listeners a new record of pure dance music. It’s a thumping, emotional and invigorating series of tunes that never quite lets up for even a moment. The tunes blend into each other rather fantastically, not allowing for any respite from the constant sway of the beat, which is exactly what Moby was going for – executed to near-perfection.

A concept album, “Last Night” highlights the moments of an all-night clubbing experience. While its funny to imagine a grown man in his 40s still exploring the metaphorical bedrock of dance music in its grittiest and most beautiful details, Moby pulls it off with characteristic ease and expertise.

It’s not hard to trace the progress of the evening through the tracks on the record. Beginning with “Ooh Yeah,” the song features a repetitive vocal track simply singing “ooh yeah” over and over again. The music starts slowly, building to a joyous frenzy, celebrating the beginning of an evening and all its promise and mystery, still waiting in the club shadows, ready to flash across the dance floor with the playing of the night’s first song.

Throughout the record, Moby barely makes an appearance himself at the microphone, and this is a good thing. While his skill with the mixer and beat machine is unquestionable, his vocals often have had a somewhat boring and dulling effect on previous albums. You just have to think back to “Play’s” hit “Southside”, a duet with Gwen Stefani, to remember why Moby shouldn’t ever be adding his own voice to a record.

As the album progresses, the pulses of the evening become more evident. Things start to slow down just a little bit with the rather melancholy track “Degenerates.” Following the first 10 tunes, it highlights the trance-like sensation of being awake and confused, surrounded by strangers and even stranger stimuli. It’s not a bad track, but it’s a bit boring.

After “Degenerates” come “Sweet Apocalypse” and “Mothers of the Night.” While neither features any vocal tracks, both contribute to the winding-down tempo of the night. Void of the elated spirits highlighted on the album’s first tracks, they are more rooted in desire for expression of darkened prayers. They are eerily observational, showing that the clubber is quite aware of the varying levels of sensation and experience circling through the mind as the evening progresses on quickly towards dawn.

While the album doesn’t quite have moments as strong and resoundingly powerful as was found on tracks like “Play’s” epic “Natural Blues” featuring Jill Scott, “Last Night” is still a welcome return to the dance music form for Moby. He’s shown us that he’s still in the club, still listening, taking in everything and summarizing obvious complexities of thought into a thoroughly enjoyable and solid set of tunes.

Contact James Costa at jcosta1@nd.edu