Innocents is an unsurprising album from an artist who had a brief fling with music that was popular and arguably influential for a short time in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Moby made his mark on the world with low-key introspective trance in his best years, and he’s still spinning the same sound.
All in all, this is music which, like the bulk of Moby’s catalog, can best be described as hollow. Ever since 1999’s Play, this has become Moby’s modus operandi. “Everything that Rises” builds slowly on muffled percussion and angelic synth melodies, but it doesn’t grow so much in intensity, complexity or feeling — more so just in volume. Nothing’s happening, nothing’s happening, it’s getting louder, and now it’s over.
The aforementioned angelic synth melodies are, frustratingly, a linchpin of Innocents. It would be interesting to see what Moby could do without that particular sound. It makes the album simultaneously dated, because it somehow sounds exactly the late ’90s, and shallow because it promotes an air of unfocused, media-friendly spiritualism.
In its primary gear, Innocents is slow, plodding and peaceful in a way that might be appropriate for time-lapse shots in a nature documentary. It borders on meditative, but mostly it’s just boring. There is a definite formula of down-tempo drums, sweeping strings and reverb backing nearly every track. Flip a coin. Heads, you get vocal accompaniment. Tails, instrumental. He swerves into poppier grounds on “The Perfect Life,” a collaboration with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, but it might as well be a Flaming Lips song.
Moby comes close to producing something with soul on “Don’t Love Me,” but it comes across as someone trying to imitate soul after reading an article about it. Inyang Bassey provides sultry vocals and Moby tries to step outside his box, but the song ends up as little more than a different flavor of forgettable trance. A collaboration with Mark Lanegan similarly flops, sounding like a castrated Tom Waits slipping into an opiate-induced coma.
Innocents is an album that is neutral to the ears, generically spiritual and crafted as inoffensively as possible. That is exactly what makes it so infuriating. A kick and a miss for the Charlie Brown of electronic music.