After two albums of battle anthems for Trump-addled times, raging against the machine with his “Void Pacific Choir”, Moby’s fifteenth long-player is ostensibly a return to his millennial purple patch, when Play conquered the world and was bought by millions. The tune especially touted thus is the single “Motherless Child”, a spiritual standard revisited, but soul singer Raquel Rodriguez, accompanied by Moby rapping, over bass-propelled electro-funk sounds nothing like that old stuff. And so it is with the rest of the album.
This is a good thing, because that would be boring. That period of his career has already been mined by enough imitators, without the originator adding to them. Instead, he takes us on a melancholic journey that seems loosely informed by WB Yeats extraordinary, apocalyptic poem “The Second Coming”. Musically, meanwhile, it’s closer in tone to the haunting “Sleep Alone” from his 2002 album 18, a spooked tune that was written pre-9/11 but contains haunting lines about how “At least we were together/Holding hands/Flying through the sky” amid a desolate ruined city.
This time the ruin is wider, and Everything was Beautiful… has lots of Moby MCing in a whispery, broken voice, firing out lines such as “The darkness closed like a mouth on a wild night/I’ll never be free” (on the gospel/beats epic “The Wild Darkness”), and how, in the face of a “criminal soul”, “criminal silence” and “criminal violence”, “I can’t see, I can’t speak, I can’t walk, I can’t talk/I can see how it’s falling”.
It’s all accompanied by Moby’s trademark brilliance at classically choreographed synths, riven with old soul's penchant for wrenching, reaching harmonics. This occasionally gives the impression of euphoria. Indeed, the massive “Falling Rain and Night” is hopeful and upbeat but, really, as is made clear on blues guitar-laden closer, “A Dark Cloud is Coming”, all is not well. While he remains as accessible as ever, stadium-vast in sonic scope, clearly Moby is vexed in his musically luscious way at “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”.
Overleaf: Watch the video for "Mere Anarchy" by Moby