Or: Stuck Inside of Moby With The Memphis Blues Again.
Okay Wembley Stadium, Whew! Great to see a full house in here tonight! MF’s! Okay, okay, calm down … hands up if you bought Moby’s hardcore LP, Animal Rights, back in ’96! Ahh, okay then, just me. Again. It’s okay, I’ll see myself out.
Moby made history in the mid 90’s by being the first ever bald dancey person who sailed around on a fictitious whaling ship called the Pequod, to manage being both Christian and cool, whilst simultaneously pulsing at 1000 Bpm and not having much of a public sense of humour. Or something.
A friend of mine saw him in 1994 doing his dance dance dance Everything Is Wrong dance dance dance thang, which I had no real interest in but he told me that at one point Moby stopped, picked up a guitar and punked out a hardcore/thrash track, much to his fellow concert goers confusion*; I filed this information away in my huge brain. Before we knew it he’d released a punk LP and before he knew it I’d bought it on the day it came out – the cover picture of a two-week old Moby being held by his grandfather is what swayed me.
So, this was hardcore then. Okay, cue up MF Animal Rights and prepare to get blasted by … a guitar and violin track called ‘Now I Let It Go’, which is rather gorgeous and atmospheric, reminding me very much of my beloved Rachels’, it is my favourite track here actually, by far. My second fave track is up next, ‘Come On Baby’ which is actually really good, imagine ‘Bodyrock’ from Moby’s mega LP Play, but recorded in a really ANGRY mood, some howling guitar and some great whiplash beats – not really very punky, but damned good regardless. Warning video contains cleavage:
In fact, there’s the rub. For all the guitars and shouting, and there are lots of both, this isn’t really a punk LP, it’s a fucking livid dance album instead – which was without any real precedent that I can think of. It’s all a little mannered to be hardcore, no matter how much he shouts everything has polished edges and straight lines, you know that if you cut yourself on any of the tracks here you wouldn’t need a tetanus shot; try that on a Circle Jerks platter and you’d need that needle within 5 minutes, or risk losing your hand. Unfortunately, for all the various textures and loudness that individual tracks assume it can all be a bit samey after a point – I’d liken it to the way you can train your brain to edit out the noise of a road drill after 10 minutes. I have found, in these last few days that listening to a single track has a much bigger impact than sitting through Animal Rights in its’ entirety.
I don’t want that to sound too negative, this was a brave LP to make, he managed to alienate all his fans and all the critics at a single drop and not many artists dare to make moves that radical. He would win them all back a couple of years later, but he had no way of knowing that then. Moby also has the skillz to play the billz too, all the guitar, bass, keys and drums are by him. Animal Rights is just missing a bit of songcraft and/or raw edge, some of the tracks outstay their welcome too, possibly in a bid to strain for epic status – I’m looking at you ‘Face It’ and ‘Say It’s All Mine’! they just end up sounding a little like tracks that Rollins would leave on the studio floor.
Rather strangely the LP closes with the totally anodyne ‘Living’, which plays out like a track a made-for-TV movie producer would use over a montage about the death of a character’s pet gerbil and the, clearly heartfelt, yet equally bland ‘Love Song For My Mom’**.
I think part of my issue with Animal Rights is the hectoring that goes on in print on the inner sleeve. I happen to agree with every word Moby writes about the Christian right in the US and a certain amount of what he writes about animal rights, but having someone’s views pushed at me in a humourless manner, even when I rather agree with them, rankles a bit. I appreciate the man has earned his right to print whatever the hell he likes on his inner sleeve, but still … I liked it better when bands just used to thank their dealers and groupies under assumed names, alongside their wives and families and the guy from the record label who put the bail up for them that one time after that misunderstanding in Dudesocket, Alabama.
I am more than happy for Moby to exercise his constitutional rights to free speech and expression here in the service of Animal Rights, but I can’t help thinking that we’d all have been far richer for a bit more pursuit of happiness along the way.
PS – To my surprise, this LP’s worth a bit these days too.
*I’m assuming they went to witness him doing his dance dance dance Everything Is Wrong dance dance dance thang.
**sorry, I didn’t like typing that.