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Moby
Wait For Me Iain Moffat , July 7th, 2009 06:34

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With a name like that, he was always going to show certain aquatic affinities, but, really, who knew Moby had such a way with the red herring? The title of his latest record suggests someone playing an exuberant catch up, which is mighty good news when you consider there's a bandwagon blaring past with _Where Were U In '92? and Invaders Must Die on it. Moreover, the artwork here recalls giving-out-toast-at-their-gigs-era Pavement or the ultra-sketchy bands that emerged in their wake (Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, say, or Archers Of Loaf), and the fact that his name is practically the small print hints at a final outright rejection of his post-Play superstardom. Frankly, everything's in place for this to be the second thoroughly exciting Moby album in a row.

Which is why the heart sinks so dramatically as it opens with the self-consciously dignified and awfully serious strings of 'Division', indicating that the search for another 'Thousand', 'Porcelain' or 'Disco Lies' may be a taxing one to say the least. And so it proves. Remember how the Stone Roses at the height of their chutzpah used to release tracks that were entirely some of their other ones, but played backwards? Well, it sounds like Moby's done that with the instrumentation from Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' and ended up with 'Shot In The Back Of The Head'. You might have thought the results would have been either the stuff of staggering beauty, or wretched but with an admirable audacity – they’re sadly neither. Poor Kelli Scarr, meanwhile, can't possibly deserve the drowning in reverb she's subjected to in the title track, and, while we suspect 'JTLF' is meant to make for a compelling centrepiece, it actually just comes across as something you might've heard in a lift on your way to some defunct turn-of-the-century style mag.

And then there's the political aspect; don't get us wrong, we're all in favour of more performers attempting to engage with this scale of issues (and, to be honest, Richard here does have decent form), but, while the utopianism of 'Study War' is hardly objectionable, the broaching of the subject of refugees in 'Pale Horses' is sufficiently say-nothing to border on the voyeuristic, which we're sure was never the intent. Granted, there are occasional moments of respite here: when Moby takes on vocal duties himself, as he does on 'Mistake', the results are - as of course they were on 'We Are All Made Of Stars' not unakin to some of those back-to-basics albums Bowie offers up on occasion, while 'Scream Pilots' has a certain luminescent charm and somewhat fuels the notion we may be listening to a fan of early Ultravox! and the Cure, and Hilary Gardner's vocal elevates the beehived wooziness of 'Hope Is Gone' to something positively Lynchian.

Still, this, lest we forget, is the work of a man capable of euphoric abandon, righteous fury, and a veritable ambush of soul, following up a collection of giddy disco frippery in a year that's lent itself to a more copious degree of dancing than any this century, so his failure to produce anything under these circumstances that could be classed as unqualifiedly vital is an enormous one. More Valium than Vicks, Wait For Me is simultaneously the most polite album you'll hear in '09 and the very height of rudeness.