East coast DJ, producer and techno giant Moby is painfully aware of his surroundings. His major-label debut, Everything Is Wrong, reflected his need to fix the world’s ills. Similarly, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to decipher the theme of Moby the vegan’s fourth LP, Animal Rights.
Like Everything Is Wrong, Animal Rights goes from one extreme to the next, swinging from contemplative, classical prettiness to screaming-guitar mayhem. But this time out, there’s less fun in between those two poles. Moby strays even further from his celebratory rave roots and pummels us with a sonic depiction of our apocalyptic society. He opens the album with a pure, celestial ballad (“Dead Sun”) but immediately, perversely counters this gracefulness with the grating guitar and tortured screams of “Someone to Love.” Moby does arise from the self-imposed blight and ruin to deliver some groovy fuzz-box guitar tunes and yummy, ultrasexed vocals, but by that point, they sound more like rock & roll overkill than an eccentric studio guy smashing barriers.
The best moments here are the intentionally stone-cold cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” and the graceful yet pulsing instrumental “Alone,” which is so touching, it’s near transcendental.
Moby’s work still reigns supreme in the realm between pop and dance; it’s just that this time around, he has decided to push an agenda instead of boundaries. With Animal Rights, he denies what he does best: squeezing inspirational, spiritual and painful feelings out of lifeless electronic gadgetry. It’s as if he feels that his music must self-destruct alongside humanity and is daring you to dance while everything’s dying — but then, wasn’t it the gloomy threat of reality that got us dancing in the first place?