There will be those who dismiss Moby's new "Destroyed" as a rehash of 2009's "Wait For Me". After all, as he explains in the liner notes, this is intended as 'a soundtrack for empty cities at 2 A.M.' which does not bring to mind dance floor stompers and club bangers. Granted, there are a fair share of downbeat tracks on the new album, but dig deeper and there are enough covert beats and harder edged tracks to make "Destroyed" a different experience from its predecessor. And after his abysmal 2008 release "Last Night", my least favorite thing Moby has ever done, I'll gladly take another album where he is right in his wheelhouse.
As I mentioned in my review of "Wait For Me', Moby finally seems to have overcome record company pressures and the need to best his "Play" era success, and is back to making music on his terms, and this is when he is at his best. He does run the risk of boring some of his fan base if another downbeat album follows this one. A return to his Voodoo Child moniker for another flat out dance record like 2003's "Baby Monkey" would be nice, but the selections on "Destroyed" are so strong, and different enough from much of "Wait For Me", I have not reached the point of over-saturation with his slower material yet.
"Destroyed" has more than enough beat laden moments to bring more variety than "Wait For Me" had. As I previously reviewed, the three songs that made up the "Be The One" EP he released for free as a sampler of the new album all marked a return to more danceable music. "Be The One" is still one of my favorites, a dark rocker with wailing guitars and repeated electronically altered vocals. The glitchy "Sevastopol" is carried along by a thumping beat intertwined with Moby's trademark electronic string effects and "Victoria Lucas" starts off melancholy with vocal hums and keyboards before a harder beat kicks in.
The song that immediately grabbed my attention on my first listen is "After". Starting with electronic vocals, a buzzy keyboard begins while drums slowly build, before kicking into a stomping beat. This is one of the few tracks Moby sings on this time as string stabs dart in and out above the kicking drums. It is simply a great track. Moby does a more standard vocal on the single "The Day", one of his better and most decipherable lyrics, dealing with being by the side of a loved one about to pass away. The song has a soaring chorus and displays an obvious David Bowie influence, but is again one of the better full lyrics he has ever written.
Female vocalists are again a focal point on "Destroyed". Emily Zuzik sings the sublime ballad "The Low Hum". A few tracks have a distinct 70's soulful feel to them including "Lie Down In Darkness" featuring Joy Malcolm on vocals. Inyang Bassey contributes vocals on four tracks, with "The Right Thing" the knockout, sounding like a long lost 70's soul classic and another of the best tracks on "Destroyed".
My first listen to this album was on computer speakers when Moby made it available for streaming. Things seemed to slow to a crawl with the last four tracks, all largely instrumental pieces that didn't seem to go anywhere. But that is where how you listen to an album can make all the difference. Laying down and listening to "Destroyed" from start to finish through a good set of headphones is essential. The beauty of the closing instrumental pieces was quickly revealed. "Stella Maris", features operatic vocals from Anna Maria Friman mixed in with somber strings. "The Violent Bear It Away" calls to mind Moby's classic "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters" with piano, orchestral strings and a steady single drum beat. "Lacrimae" also has a percussive beat underneath the peaceful electronic effects and melody, but at just over eight minutes is the only instrumental piece that starts to wear out its welcome and could have benefited from some editing.
I'm interested to see what direction Moby will take his next album, but I'm completely satisfied with having "Destroyed" to help pass the time until that day comes. It's another fine release to add to a catalog filled with them from this electronic music legend.
"Destroyed" was released in the U.S. May 17, 2011 on Little Idiot/Mute Records. It is available in a number of formats as there is a corresponding photo book as well.