Review Summary: The protest rave…
At the end of the ‘00s, Moby turned his back on the mainstream, opting instead for a low key profile that offered him the liberty to do what he wanted. Although the huge success of Play
and even Hotel
brought him a vast number of fans, headlining all the major festivals in the world, there were just as many who started criticizing him. His ubiquity was too much for some and soon, those looked for just about anything to complain. Whether it was the music or beliefs of any kind, a trend to pick on him began. As soon as he went independent, the output changed too. Gone were the rock leanings or bombastic retro dance parties, leaving room for a more reflective, ambient side. Not worried about what would happen next, the LPs benefited of a newfound consistency, but they also placed him into a comfort zone that stalled any progress. When the placid Innocents
hit the shelves, many of his followers were hoping for a rejuvenation of sorts.
Enter These Systems Are Failing
, an album very few would have seen it coming at this stage. Moby has become very active on the social media platforms, advocating for environmental safety and pushing against animal slaughter or the Republican party (see his ongoing anti-Trump “campaign”). He always included essays on albums and wrote several journal entries on these topics, yet troubled times ask for harder attempts. Consequently, all these issues had a profound influence on his creativity. Taking the new wave/post-punk aesthetics of New Order & The Cure along with his own punk background (Vatican Commandos and the Animal Rights album which turned 20 this year), the man released one of the most potent records of his career. Clocking in at around 35 minutes, this is a straightforward manifesto meant to raise awareness among the listeners. From start to finish, we receive an intense ride full of pummeling beats, old school synths, gang vocals and a wash of heavily processed guitars. ‘Are You Lost in the World Like Me?’ acts as the catchy, vibrant centerpiece that successfully blends techno and punk rock. His brittle voice kicks in full force, while the instrumental makes you jump, especially during the chorus. This tune, along with the raving opener, ‘Hey! Hey!’, borrow the trance-inducing arrangements present on his first two records, creating a euphoric ride (a feature missing from most of his post-Everything Is Wrong
Nevertheless, Moby occasionally drives harder into punk territory for a more powerful experience. ‘Break. Doubt’ or ‘Erupt & Matter’ are industrial sing-alongs which you would more likely hear on a Front Line Assembly LP (minus the cyborg vocals and metallic chugs). The use of tribal percussion on the latter, as well as ethereal key pads and sequencers, creates a grandiose atmosphere where you can dance while protesting. Meanwhile, the blunt riffs and repetitive shouts build up tension, especially on ‘The Light Is Clear in My Eyes’, whose coda is one of the heaviest moments on These Systems Are Failing
. Sharp guitars add to the overall vibe, yet the overdriven chords kick down the door. As a conclusion to this hyperactive LP, he fittingly chose to add ‘And It Hurts’, a short, lo-fi ditty boasting an industrial punk edge, complete with muffled vocals. It really brings everything to a succinct end, summing very well the entire journey in the process. Such a reinvention is very welcomed, since it shows us there’s more we can expect from him in the upcoming years, not just a nice, comfortable slumber.
Stripped of all excess, These Systems Are Failing
delivers like very few others do in Moby’s discography. It will no doubt divide a part of his fan base like Animal Rights
did, however, it won’t be as shocking as in 1996. Many are accustomed now with his antics and as that album has become an unsung classic for some, the former will surely receive its praise over time. For those who have mixed feelings about the new LP, it will sink in after a while, just give it a chance.