V2 Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It's hard to figure out who this will appeal to, because it cannot really be defined, and perhaps that's the hallmark of a great album these days. It's not techno, but it has electronica leanings. It's not pop, but "South Side" was a big pop hit. It's got blues samples, ambient instrumentals, some songs, a lot of mood.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Play remains a compelling listen, even if everything doesn't gel. The first two songs wrap old blues lyric samples around modern electronic beats, but neither is essential. Skip ahead to “Porcelain,” with those warped strings and piano, to get a sense of what Moby is really trying to say here. “South Side” is fine, too, though the verse seems like it could have been developed more to fit with the soaring chorus.

“Natural Blues” is a better example of the blues lyrics-meets-electronic pastiche, with a quietly insistent beat that slowly builds up to a climax of keyboards and voices. Moby then does a 180 to make the club-ready “Machete,” trying to shore up the techno credibility, and it's fine but hardly essential. “Everloving,” on the other hand, is probably the best non-vocal song on the disc, a moody piece that conjures up images of the lonely wanderer.

The shorter songs only have one or two hooks to keep them alive, almost as if Moby found something he liked, recorded a minute or two of it, and let it go. The man is fascinated with sound and likes to experiment, and one wishes something like “7” or “Guitar Flute & String” had been developed into longer pieces, the latter especially because of the gorgeous acoustic guitar.

Ultimately, Play feels like an unfinished project, a masterpiece Moby began and decided to end 3/4 of the way through. In this case, most of it is, given Moby's sensibilities toward hooks and mood-creating sounds.

But don't go into it with any expectations. Take it on its own terms.

Rating: B

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