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MOBY Ė HOTEL - EMI MUSIC
Record Rating: *****

Moby - Hotel - EMI Music Mobyís music agenda is fairly well-known. In the early nineties it was techno and underground brain-drains such as Go, in the mid-90ís it was rock mixed with casual social concern on the fleshed-out Animal Rights album. Then of course 1999ís Play made him a very rich man after selling 10 million copies, not to mention the fact that it was one of the best albums of the year.

Those who are hooked to the ambient soundscapes that usually punctuate a Moby release will find plenty to luxuriate on with this new one. Hotel is Moby's first album since 2002's dismal 18. The album pleases on first listen, and maybe even the second, for its commitment to leaving his 18 sound behind is a refreshing change. The songs drum through fairly low-key verses only to treat the listener to a predictable, yet undeniably catchy, chorus. Itís a record littered with radio-friendly songs, and the first single serviced to radio Lift Me Up, seems to fit well into that category. Quite a few of the fourteen tracks here and their arrangement call to mind 1980ís electro pioneers New Order and fittingly, New Order's song Temptation is covered two tracks later, with Moby's friend Laura Dawn offering sultry vocals over a heartbeat, strings and jangly guitar. It's a love song, and one of the record's several quiet moments. Tracks like Homeward Angel and Where I End do have a very nice natural ebb and flow, but for the most part, Moby's singing does fall somewhat flat. He should stick to doing what heís good at, synthesizing the cuts.

For all its grandeur and gospel, this feels like an album Moby wrote to impress his girlfriend or to win over the crowd too young to remember the Pet Shop Boys or Aha. And surprisingly, it seems to do just that. The alternately breathy and beckoning delivery of the songs is a definitely a sensual tone to jostle your synapses. The albums standout track is Dream About Me, a beautiful excursion into the pretty melodies and chords that Moby does so well. On the whole, the release surprisingly turns out to be a rewarding soft pop affair, which goes about in calm and thoughtful pace. Moby does explore new sounds and topics on this album, and if he continues in this vein, he could become more relevant than someone like Eminem, who once made fun of him.

So Hotel is difficult to hate, but itís also impossible to truly love. Itíll probably get you going till the next Moby release, and then be left in your unused CD pile. If youíre a longtime Moby fan, then youíll get the yearning for the halcyon days of his samples and that slightly more mysterious presence on the previous records. Still if youíre looking for the same man who updated the James Bond Theme for the 21st Century (and had a hit with it!) Ė You wonít really have to look too far. This is great pop music to make out with. What else do you need to know?

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