Musicians are often praised for “growing as artists.” Damn the sales and airplay, full speed ahead! However, something must be said for occasionally embracing your past. With his new album Hotel, Moby steamrolls over his electronic roots instead of letting them develop naturally.Once boasting thousands of finished songs in his archives, Moby’s albums on the V2 label instead contain one song done many times. The formula worked on Play: Hitching forgotten blues and gospel to accessible dance tracks was a “playful” novelty. It failed on 18, artist and rhythms drained of spirit by the 9/11 terror attacks.
Moby tries to merge those sensations into a catchy album with serious overtones. The means to that end is all-too-straightforward pop musicianship. Moby sings throughout Hotel and employs traditional rock arrangements alongside — and often instead of — processed noises.
“Beautiful,” the first single, typifies much of the album: nasal monotone, featherweight lyrics, and altogether plodding pop. This so-called artistic growth more accurately exudes the vacant feeling of Maroon 5 or late-period R.E.M.
While Moby could expertly sample killer hooks for use at 140 BPM, he can not craft them for use in a band structure. Sadly, he works so hard here to get the sound right in his own head that he neglects his dance music offerings. With the possible exception of “Very,” anthemic passion on Hotel is minimal.
Fans who endured Moby’s last crossover, 1996’s Animal Rights, may find Hotel a repeat performance in self-flagellation. It offers so little of what put Moby on the map that Eminem’s classic jabs at him suddenly seem prophetic. Nobody listens to techno when nobody actually plays it.