Review Summary: Make your own decision
Moby’s Animal Rights
album is a difficult one to review. Is it a perfectly conceptualised gem, further displaying the processes of anger through brutal thrashing and haunting calm? Or is it a poorly constructed mess of tinny screams and catastrophic guitars? I lie in the understated former section.
is a left-field album for already quite a left-field artist. While Moby’s first solo album was a your typical (but well-done) techno album, he actually started off his musical career in punk outfit Vatican Commandos
. This was reflected in tracks on acclaimed second album Everything Is Wrong
, with tracks such as All That I Need Is To Be Loved
and What Love
(notice a pattern) placing pulsing beats behind razor-sharp guitars. While this gained him success, in a way not dissimilar to Faith No More
’s Angel Dust
’s In Utero
, he decided to make a proper punk rock record with Animal Rights
. Just dig that name.
The album even starts with a left-field turn. Dead Sun
starts off with nearly four minutes of haunting post-rockish ambience. This sad atmosphere is destroyed with Somebody To Love
which, after 30 seconds of building feedback, explodes into a mess of crashing guitars and Moby’s perfectly imperfect voice, which explodes into a vicious scream of “SOMEONE TO LOOOOVE” in the chorus, complete with strange electronic effects in the background, adding to the dark angry atmosphere. This continues for the next two tracks, each adding their own little touches of variation, Heavy Flow
effectively using a wall of noise, You
’s ending using backtracking at the end.
And now the atmosphere changes. Within the first two seconds Now I Let It Go
takes you into an atmosphere of complete despair and hopelessness. The sole use of tear-stained violin and gently plucked acoustic guitar couldn’t be sadder, and at the right moment, I’m pretty sure one could burst into tears at it. Come On Baby
evokes a more menacing atmosphere. It’s probably the most electronic of the “punk” songs, using many digital effects on the instruments and Moby’s voice to make it a creepy listen. Soft
achieves a similar effect, being a slow-burning track, yet still containing the familiar blistering punk, filled with creepy vocals and distorted electronic effects, creating a sound similar to guitar feedback.
The brief moment of anger is again broken Anima
, two and a half minutes of beat-fuelled sadness, again using the contrast of atmosphere to full effect. Say It’s All Mine
is the closest thing to a ballad, which alternates between slow-burning guitar (complete with background screeches) and Moby’s rage-fuelled shout in the chorus, and a more humble voice in the verse. The anger is again cut by the catchiest song on the album, a cover of Mission of Burma’s That’s When I Reach For My Revolver
. While it’s not as drenched in feedback as the original, there’s something about the vocals that makes it more emotional.
Preparing for the explosion of the album opus that is Face It
, the longs song on the album (at 10:45). It’s impossible not to see this as anything other than an extraordinarily long interlude, mid-tempo ambience that very slowly builds for the duration of the song.
starts off with a guitar sound fairly similar to 4°
by Tool, descending into murky feedback, then exploding into vitriolic grunge punk, eventually breaking out into an incredibly distorted guitar solo, which continues for 3 minutes before halting into a relaxed ambience again, basically summarising the entire album into one song.
The next four songs are all ambient, and each more reflective and, well, happy, Living
being almost alarmingly cheerful. There still is a hint of sorrow in these songs, mostly in Love Song For My Mum
, A Season In Hell
ending the album on again, a rather depressing note.
Track analysis the only way to describe the album. It is an album entirely for the listener’s personal judgement, it’s that ambiguous. Moby even knew this himself, writing in the album booklet “please listen to animal rights in its entirety at least once." While the general consesus is that Animal Rights
"ranks as one of the classic failed albums, right alongside Sinéad O'Connor
's big-band Am I Not Your Girl
," I fail to see that. It’s true that the record is indeed flawed. The guitars are sometimes too distorted, the album is overly long, Moby’s voice sometimes lacks the “oomph” to make the transitions to ambient more powerful and Alone
is overly long. However, every flaw is intended. I might be and probably are wrong, but to me the album represents the stages of long-term anger, beginning and ending with sadness, with monetary bursts of pure rage in the middle, steadily calming down and appearing in-between bouts of calm sadness, and then peace.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most criminally underrated and overlooked albums of all time. Indeed, it is flawed, but the flaws, in a way, make it perfect. This was never meant to be the next Angel Dust
, this was just Moby releasing every last punk energy he had left. The punk songs are energetic, angry and visceral, the ambient songs are soothing, sad and haunting, all emotion. An exhausting listen, but a rewarding one. Try it out now.
Say It’s All Mine
That’s When I Reach For My Revolver
Someone to Love
Come On Baby
Love Song For My Mom