Over two decades have passed since Richard Melville Hall's wide-eyed, dancefloor moniker came in the shape of a self-titled debut - no more than an ignored blip on American radars, but scoring a beacon of interest on UK shores by contrast. Since then, Moby has been one of early 90's electronic music's most accomplished, most varied and by effect, most challenging artists to not only nail down, but to follow fluently from one record to another. The front half-dozen records can speak volumes to that as much, if not more, than the back half. And while Moby himself has continued to explore a field of interest that still sits alongside music - non-profit organizations, charities, essays and photography are the best labels for these - it's good to know that while these interests are rightfully being accomplished, his music remains the one thing the World still recognizes him for. For today's Top 10 count-down, I've ventured through the vast catalog of Moby's major releases and picked what I believe are the pinnacle momentss in a career both creatively and commercially afloat with positives. Fear not if you don't instantly recognize a few of these; the mainstream industry lost interest in Moby around 2002 when they couldn't quite get markets to outsource his music for promotional means.
10. Come On Baby
Key lyrics: 'Wanna go down so you can wake up tired/I was holding my and I was looking for something else/But I want love'
What's this? Moby doing punk? Moby thrashing at guitar and offering drums that aren't just 4/4 signature placements? That's right; in what is arguably Moby's most aggressive record of his collection, Come On Baby's forte for guitar riffs, explosive drum beats and Moby's octane screams over indulgent lyricism on sex and romance, lock horns in the most extreme ways (*da dum psh*) imaginable. An unstoppable force vs. an immoveable object.
9. Study War
Key lyrics: 'Finally brother after a while, the battle will be over/From that day we will shall lay down our burden, and study war no more'
Three instruments have continued to pop up in tandem on Moby's music: the violin, the piano and the drums. On Study War, the forth track to the soothing (and overlooked to interject) calm of Wait For Me, Moby finds an ease with his signatory arrangement in one of the more easiest yet exemplified pieces so far - additional vocals professing from beyond the music's emotional leaning as much as they glide in and out only to intensify the beauty to such a minimal, but powerfully statured anti-war piece.
Key lyrics: 'Oh when you want you want from me, oh when you want you want from me/But my mind was slow, but my mind was slow'
It had been an age since Moby had set the ball rolling with synthesizers and drum machines as opposed to traditional instrumentation. And while the more electronic leads were cast to the shadows on Destroyed, After stood among Moby's established arrangement of instruments and prooved with pride. Its heart-thumping percussion, punchy bellows of synth and Moby's vocals - two decades on from his house-driven debut - showed with uncanny skill that there was still room left for the good old exersion of danceable hooks. Speaking of which...
Key lyrics: 'Go/Yeah...'
The ball roller to start all ball rollers that followed. Moby's debut into the mainstream and house-hooked scene of the early 90's was one he tackled with a head-high mix of trance-inducing synth pads, pulsatting beats and piano that while lacked the symphonic tendency of his later albums, still demanded a distinct level of affection and attention. Together, lead on by the crowd-mass chants of its track title, Go was yet another stand-out contribution amid the early, golden era of House music. And a welcome one at that.
6. Lift Me Up
Key lyrics: 'Plain talking, has ruined us now/You'll never know how, sweeter than thou'
Hotel in 2005 saw Moby taking his sound away from sample-looped vocal and musical extracts and instead performing it in a live and exhuberent manner. On Lift Me Up, Moby's almost defeated, deflated expression gets a healthy and powerful boost in the form of the track's guitar-led, vocally-passionate blast of alternate rock and gospel backing alike. And by the end, when Moby is back to his rejuvinated self again, the track powers to its climax rather than simmering back down, wailing electric guitar-like voices stretching out to leave one of Moby's most daring but captivating ballads to date.
5. In This World
Key lyrics: 'Lordy don't leave me, all by myself/Good time's the devil, I'm a force of heaven'
While 2002's 18 saw Moby continuing in as much the same gospel-inspired, soul-enriching fashion as Play presented three years previous, Hall's follow-up was far more melancholic, fragmented and emotionally draining. In This World's equally-fractioned piano chords, mumbling bass and arc of strings provided the listener with an enveloping alternate to what was once an invitation to lose one's self, but now was more in an unwelcome realization to the more distressing moments in life. On this occassion, through what is a oxymoron of humor and pity in its video, the second-track of the album - and the third to be released as a single - continues Moby's projection of simple-but-effective instrumentation but in one of the most provocative of senses imaginable.
Key lyrics: 'And all the words we said, all the time we spent/Does it mean nothing? Does it mean nothing?'
Without question, Moby is one of the select few artists who can orchestrate the most simplest of compositions and give it the most excrutingly complex of emotional states. JLTF is as much the graceful letting-go of a once close relationship, as it has a unwilling soothing of remittance in trying to reclaim a now lost happiness. And in the track's delicate piano and ambient synth backing, the pitiful longing for that loss to stop is felt with incredible impact. And if to give the track its unabbreviated title, Junkies Looking To Fuck, the subject matter only gains an incredibly warped and disdained context more-so.
3. Live For Tomorrow
Key lyrics: 'As I live, as I live/As I live for tomorrow.'
Prior to the release of Last Night in 2008, a trailer was unveiled of a video montage showcasing numerous photo opportnity-tier shots of New York (both at day and night) in which an album mix played in the background. Of the tracks that featured, Live For Tomorrow was always the one I kept coming back to in need of hearing this new material. Not only do the gracious sweep of violins and drumbeats reflect the old-and-new epitomies of city life, in an album dedicated to the marvel of one of America's (if not the World's) greatest city, the track stands as a monumentus homage and honest reflection of an environment basking in history. And if the latter control panel-bleeping flutter of spacey synthesizers suggest anything, it's a city that will continue to pave its own legacy.
Key lyrics: 'In my dreams I'm jealous all the time/As I wake I'm going out of my mind.'
The piano: one of life's most gut-wrenching, tear-jerking instruments to ever be used in musical composition. Many great listens have been crafted and countless more have made their way into personal playlists; the likes of [cover variant] Mad World, 9 Crimes & Pyramid Song are among those I place in my list. Porcelain may not fit the same mold as being a piano-dominant track, but Moby's hushed, chilled-out melancholy of a piece can be rightly argued as expressing as much the same emotional leverage as any piano ballads. And in a track that offers the key-based instrument little more than water-rippling series of notes, Moby manages to express more soothing peace and eliquence in a handful of notes than a lot of artists do in large-scale chord sets. Combined with Moby's withdrawn style of vocals, grainy-quality cellos and faint vocal samples, Porcelain reaches out to our World and pulls us into the artist's own.
Key lyrics: 'Rock y'all, non-stop y'all/To the beat y'all, the bodyrock y'all.'
In no more than the chronological space of three minutes and thirty-seven seconds, Bodyrock is the grand-stage to which musical, melodic and harmonious genius plays out - livening the listener with its rich atmosphere, but envoking us likewise in a dance-sheak voyage of euphoria. The upbeat hip-hop flavored swatch of guitar, beats, violins and vocals collide and expand outwards into what is almost a musical kaleidoscope of energetic pulses, downtempo moodsets and exploratory senses that make you just want to get up, release and simply watch the sparks fly. Bodyrock is without question Moby's crowning achievement in finding the pinnacle centre ground in a career encompassing vast arrays of genre-hopping sound and idea-generation. Thirteen years and countless albums on, it remains as fresh and invigorating on the hundredth listen as it did on the first.
But for God's sake, don't - and I repeat DON'T - project your ciphering-off of movement in front of others, as these intriguing gentlemen so interestingly demonstrate...
All That I Need Is To Be Loved
God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters
Jam For The Ladies