Greatest Hits – Covid Edition

I’m all too aware that there haven’t been a lot of new reviews around here lately – sorry for that. For now, with the lockdown firmly in place, let’s roll back to some of the reviews from the last couple of years that you might have missed!

Voodoo Child – Baby Monkey

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Moby had used a variety of different pseudonyms, quickly essentially becoming the entire artist roster of Instinct Records. His best known nom-de-plume was Voodoo Child, a name he used to release an eponymous single in 1990, followed by a double a-side single Demons/Horses in 1994, and then a full-length album The End of Everything

Having got on with other things for the next seven or eight years, he then returned with a couple of underground 12″ releases, which grew into Baby Monkey,

For its sound, Baby Monkey owes a lot to Play and 18, as you might expect, but it’s also very different. Gotta Be Loose in Your Mind opens the album, with a repeated vocal sample and some dark beats. It’s one of the shortest tracks on here, and also one of the least imaginative in many ways. But it soon gives way to Minors, a dark nouveau-rave piece that may lack some of the cheesy charm of his 1990-ish output but sounds infinitely more professional.

Take it Home is next, side A of the second release from this album and (to date) the final Voodoo Child single. Somewhat analogous to tracks such as Guitar, Flute & String from Play, this is largely built around gentle pads and some slightly quirky samples, as well as a huge bass line and housey beats.

Then comes Light is in Your Eyes, side A of the first single from this album. This is by far the best track on here, and probably the only one that could have hit the charts if this had seen a more commercial release. Again, it’s built around pads with huge bass and beats, and frankly it sounds a lot like Moby, but it’s beautiful and catchy, and probably deserved better than being hidden away on an obscure underground release.

The two AA-sides follow in chronological order, the lovely chirpy Electronics first, a relaxed piece that sounds as though it belongs as the piece to wake everyone up again at the end of a chillout mix. Then Strings,

Having got the singles out of the way, there’s still half an album to enjoy, and really the theme continues – these are oddly named, long, dance and house tracks, generally without vocal samples, or with only indiscernible ones if they do turn up. The gaps between tracks are so short that each track almost blends into the next.

Gone wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Moby‘s obscure early compilation releases, full of acid squelches and fast chord changes. Unh Yeah – not to be confused with Ooh Yeah, from Last Night,

You can tell that this album was probably recorded pretty quickly – not because the quality slips particularly, but because Moby – sorry, Voodoo Child – was clearly having a lot of fun recording these tracks.

Obscure follows, with huge bass and sliding synth sounds. Last opens with fake vinyl crackle, and grows into a piece full of swishy hats, punchy basses, and different sliding synth sounds. Harpie is a curiously pleasant piece full of harmonising synth sounds coming from different directions. This is clearly intended for very late night listening, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

This album received poor reviews from critics, who saw through the pseudonym immediately and either missed the point that Moby was just trying to enjoy himself here, or saw this as the unchallenging, and somewhat homogenised album that it is. It’s nice – there’s nothing wrong with it at all – and it does entirely what it’s trying to do, and gives Moby a chance to express his creativity without being judged too harshly. Except, of course, everyone knew it was Moby anyway.

Closing the album is Synthesisers, with the British spelling, curiously. It warbles with deep pads and circling high notes, and lacks the huge beats of other tracks. It’s a beautiful closing track, somewhat unlike the rest of the album in that it’s quieter, gentler, and comes from a different place. I wonder if removing the beats from the rest of the album would have produced a better critical response?

So Baby Monkey might have just been a one-off side project for Moby,

You can still find Baby Monkey at all regular retailers.

Artist of the Week – Moby

The scheduling must have shifted a bit at some point, as this one is listed as the first artist of the week, but was definitely broadcast first, around 4.20am (!) on the third week of the radio show Music for the Masses, back in late 2004.

As before, apologies in advance for any inaccuracies, errors, hyperbole, or plagiarism in this piece – it was written twelve years ago and intended to be read out loud…

I want to kick off by explaining a little bit about [Moby‘s] musical career. He first picked up the name Moby as a child, being the great great grand-nephew (or something) of the Moby Dick author Herman Melville. During his relatively troubled childhood, he became passionate about music, particularly punk and John Lydon‘s Public Image Limited, among others.

Whilst at college, he formed several punk bands, none of which saw any great success, but in the late 1980s he moved to New York, and started DJing and making music for small underground record labels. In particular, he came up with a number of pseudonyms to become the driving force behind Instinct Records, who would go on to release several compilations of his early material.

After several underground successes, he first became known in the UK with his phenomenal hit Go, which drew heavily on Angelo Badalamenti‘s score for the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks. After a few false starts, the single reached number 6 in the UK, and was a huge hit across the world.

During the early 1990s he would remix countless major acts, including Michael JacksonPet Shop BoysBrian EnoDepeche  ModeErasureThe B-52s, and Orbital, and in 1993 he was signed to the London-based label Mute Records.

His first proper album Everything is Wrong would explore and thoroughly question the different aspects of dance music, and would yield single after single in the UK, all of which were substantial hits. The follow-up though, 1996’s Animal Rights would throw dance out of the window, and turn to hard rock instead.

In 1997, following his fantastic reworking of the James Bond theme, he released a compilation of film tracks, entitled I Like to Score, and following this, he would see his greatest success ever, even if it took rather a long time to grip the world’s consciousness.

The first single from Play was Honey, and was released in mid-1998. At this time the album was already completed, but was delayed as he didn’t have a US record company. On its original release in the UK, it peaked at number 33 and in the US it only scraped the top 100. However, after prostituting every single album track, b-side, and remix onto films and adverts, he finally had his first US hit, and climbed his way up to the top of the UK charts. The album would eventually become so successful that no fewer than eight singles were released in the UK.

The follow-up, 2001’s 18 was seen by many as a disappointment, perhaps simply because it wasn’t adventurous enough. It’s a beautiful album though, and still yielded several hit singles and topped the charts again in the UK. After seeing underground success with his Voodoo Child side-project, his next proper album is due in the spring.

Music for the Masses 28 – 29 November 2004

By late November 2004, Music for the Masses had settled into a comfortable rhythm – so much so, in fact, that I was largely forgetting to do silly things every time the webcam went off – the only highlight this week involved me waving my arms around a bit.

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Show 28: Mon 29 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Future Sound of London.

  • Bent – An Ordinary Day
  • Dusted – Always Remember to Respect & Honour Your Mother (Part 1)
  • White Town – Panoptican
  • Massive Attack – Teardrop
  • Voodoo Child – Light is in Your Eyes
  • Gotan Project – Queremos Paz
  • The Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea
  • Orbital – The Box
  • Asana – Signals
  • Grace – If I Could Fly
  • Lemon Jelly – Stay with You
  • The Future Sound of London – Cascade
  • Death in Vegas – Dirge
  • Client feat. Carl Barât – Pornography
  • Dario G – Sunchyme
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled
  • Erasure – Breathe
  • Electronic – Freefall
  • Goldbug – Whole Lotta Love
  • Leftfield – Dusted
  • The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom