Richard Melville Hall (aka Moby) is back with his 11th album and continues his deft broad stroke artistry utilizing electronic music as the backdrop for his tales. For this album he’s enlisted a some interesting choices for guest vocals. Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, QOTSA), Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips) and Cold Specks are just a few of the names to drop by.
He has a script and sticks to it. The album opens with an echoed/syncopated set of notes that he uses as the base to add in his familiar orchestral synthesizers over the top. It’s an instrumental welcome note back to fans and an easy way in for any would-be new ones.
Hall elects to have ‘A Case For Shame,’ featuring Cold Specks – who seems an almost too-good-to be true live collaborator 14 years removed from his landmark album Play (1999) graced listeners ears. Her brand of ‘doom soul,’ fits seamlessly with Moby oeuvre. Unfortunately the song that follows, featuring heretofore unknown (at least to this critic’s ears) artist Damien Jurado feels like Moby either couldn’t or just didn’t want to reach out to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. As a result the track feels stolid in retrospect.
Likewise ‘Going Wrong,’ – another instrumental – doesn’t ever feel as if it takes one to any new heights. It comes and goes with barely a whisper. ‘The Perfect Life,’ featuring Wayne Coyne picks up the pop quotient of the album – its like the electronic equivalent of a peanut butter and bacon sandwich – you don’t know why it works so well and yet…it just does somehow.
‘The Last Day,’ features a vocal turn by Skylar Grey (aka Holly Brook). A brief history lesson for the uninitiated — Grey co-wrote Eminem’s ‘Love the Way You Lie,’ and (as Brook) Fort Minor’s ‘Where’d You Go?’ By comparison this track is a darker, gauzier, moodier piece of vocals. It swirls into a cacophony of noise but never really gets anywhere specific.
Inyang Bassey handles vocal duties on ‘Don’t Love Me,’ a track that sounds like a poor man’s version of Shirley Bassey (no relation, upon research). In fact, there’s little to rave about on the second half of the disc save for ‘The Lonely Night,’ featuring Mark Lanegan (2013’s answer to U2’s 1993 collaboration with Johnny Cash on ‘The Wanderer?’) and Moby’s lone vocal take on the nine minute ‘The Dogs,’ to close out the disc. Innocents starts and finishes strong, but the whole middle is soggy and indiscernible. Moby plans few shows to support the release. Perhaps quantity outplayed quality this time around. Back to the drawing board, Herman!!!