Our fourth Bastard Child comes courtesy of everyone’s favourite EDM egghead, Moby.
So, we know who Moby is, right? Bald, vegan, thick black glasses, always quite sad, good-natured but a little condescending? Picture him behind a set of DJ decks and turning the club upside-down — he was really good at it. Everything Is Wrong is one of the very best dance albums of its era, and it takes a lot of risks, which all pay off. What starts as an ecstatic party turns into a sit-still-and-shut-up tearjerker by the end, and it’s all the richer because of it. It’s a phenomenal piece of work. What a CV it is too! So much effortless genre-hopping — surely he could do anything after this! So why did he choose to make an industrial punk album about his penis?
The colossal failure of the infamous Animal Rights was well-deserved. It’s the musical equivalent of watching someone cry after sex. Or before sex, or during sex, or instead of sex. He dove head-first into the deep end, and forgot to fill the pool with water. That being said, it’s an admirable disaster. He stuck to his guns and did exactly what he wanted, and the fact that he bounced back so elegantly makes it all the more interesting. Animal Rights might be unbearable, but it defines a key component of Moby’s appeal and character: he means it. He’s always meant it, and he will never stop meaning it. Whether it sucks or soars, his music is sincere, which makes his triumphs all the richer — even the ones no one talks about.
Last Night appeared just as the general public started to lose interest in Moby. He became less well-known as a reliable maker of quality music, and more as a bald guy who complains a lot. That reputation has only grown, especially with his ‘Jeez, what is it with you human beings’ blog-posts which seem to imply that he himself belongs to a separate and wiser species. Vulnerability is key. Listening to someone who truly believes they have all the answers is just infuriating. Said vulnerability is also something that makes Last Night so bewitching.
It’s something resembling ‘club music’, but it’s suited to listening far more than dancing. There’s a melancholy sheen about it — an uncanniness. You just need to look at the cover with its dreamlike airbrushed women, one of which only appears on a semi-busted TV screen. This is a memory of a night out — it’s right there in the title. Voices are distorted and decayed, the melodies are at once cheerful and wistful, crowds cheer and are snuffed out almost immediately. This could soundtrack a club scene, but only if the footage were slowed down, maybe with some motion-blur and VHS grain. Part of the word ‘nostalgia’ comes from the Greek ‘αλγος’, meaning ‘ache’. Pain is a baked-in component for remembering the past, and the tone of Last Night evokes this beautifully. This is especially potent if you acknowledge that the album came out in 2008, the year Moby gave up drinking and drugs entirely. Even the most crippled addict can’t deny they had some good times while high, and this is a farewell to that past life, viewed with humour and fondness.
Conceptually, it may be his most focused record ever. The songs play like different sequences in the same film. ‘Hyenas’ is a blurry sex scene, with a thick moist fog surrounding the vocals and synths; ‘I’m In Love’ contrasts its danceable beats with an anxious lonely tone; ‘I Like To Move In Here’ slows down the happy-go-lucky rave scene’s electric pianos and pairs them with a member of the Sugarhill Gang, and ‘Degenerates’ recalls ducking out the club and feeling the wind in your hair (or, in Moby’s case, scalp). What’s more, speaking as someone who only discovered this album in the past year, there’s a good chance that it’s matured over the years. Since we have genres and scenes like vaporwave and hypnagogic pop which deliberately evoke and warp our recollections of the past, Last Night feels surprisingly contemporary. If the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never or Nicolas Jaar decided to make a reasonable approximation of a nostalgic ‘dance pop’ album, it probably wouldn’t sound a million miles away from this.
This record isn’t perfect. Maybe one or two songs could have been cut to make it a smoother listen, but it’s the charm that carries you through. The imperfections are endearing because they’re sincere. As with Animal Rights, Moby means it, and while that record is a total chore to sit through, there’s a lot of joy and warmth to be found in Last Night. Hell, he even manages to evoke sex without making you feel like you’ve been sprayed with vinegar.
Words by Joe Anthony Hill