Sunday, April 14, 2013

Moby Might Like To Score, But . . . Oh, I Get It!

The Good: Decent Music, Some memorable musical moments
The Bad: SHORT!, Feels more like a collection of singles, Nothing superlative
The Basics: Better as a collection of singles than when considered as an album, Moby's I Like To Score is interesting, but erratic.

There is an episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson describes joining a barbershop quartet with Skinner, Apu and Barney and when they are choosing their name, they want one that is memorable and amusing, but becomes progressively less amusing each time it is repeated. They settle on "The B-Sharps." It works well as a joke. I think Moby might have seen that episode right before naming his album I Like To Score. The obvious response is, "Well, duh, who doesn't?!" After a few moments of considering Moby as a composer, the double entendre becomes evident and the listener feels somewhat silly for not realizing the pun earlier.

With twelve tracks, clocking in at a meager 48 minutes (I want more from my Moby!), I Like To Score is subtitled "Music From Films Vol. 1" and it has the distinct feeling of being a collection of singles as opposed to a cohesive album that is designed to say something or emote a series of emotions. As a result, the listening experience is somewhat more erratic than other Moby works and the end result is slightly less satisfying.

For those unfamiliar with the music of Moby, he is in many ways a genius composer of our day. Having created a rare perfect album with Play (reviewed here!) and Play - The B-Sides (reviewed here!), Moby has won a loyal core audience of listeners who are drawn to his creation of a new classical music that transcends pop-rock and techno-dance and becomes intimately concerned with the assembly of music as an art form. This is something largely lost in the mainstream musical scene today, which is also probably why Moby has never had huge commercial success in the United States. On I Like To Score, Moby reveals his abilities in a more straightforward dance-techno sensibility as opposed to challenging the boundaries of genre as he does on many of this other works.

The result then are twelve tracks culled from (or inspired by) nine different movies and Moby only has vocals on "New Dawn Fades" (one of the few songs he did not write). The lyrics are intriguing as a Moby sings along to murky guitars and heavy drumming, creating a wonderful post-apocalyptic feel to the song. The lines are simple, but compelling as he sings, "A change of scenes / A change of style / . . . A chance to watch / Admire the distance / Still occupied though you forget / Different colors, different shapes / Over each mistakes were made / I took the blame" ("New Dawn Fades"). Perhaps what makes the track so powerful is that it is the only song on the album with actual lyrics, but it sounds well-constructed. The listener feels a very definite sense of time, place and mood from the music well before the lyrics come in. (There are vocals on "Novio," sung by a choir, but they are virtually indistinguishable and operatic as opposed to emphasized.)

Unfortunately, some of the music is too tied to the media from which it comes. The second track on the album is the "James Bond Theme (Moby's Re-version)" and it's basically a synthed up James Bond Theme with clips from Goldfinger and/or Goldeneye thrown in. Is it interesting? Yes. Does it do anything truly new with the composition? No, not really. Instead, it's just a different orchestration to the song, upping the tempo a touch and replacing some of the brass with guitars and synths. It's fine, but it's nothing extraordinary.

Similarly, a tracks like I Like To Score and "Love Theme" sound like they must have come from a porno (I've never seen "Double Tap" nor "Joe's Apartment" so I don't know the actual context, but the tracks sound like porn music!). "Ah-Ha" and "First Cool Hive" embody somewhat generic instrumental musical places that have the sound of coming off a soundtrack to a movie, though as singles they lack context. In short, songs like the fast, danceable "Ah-Ha" and the slower, weirder synth-driven "First Cool Hive" sound like they could be part of a film (which they were), but as musical tracks, they don't stand well on their own.

So, while they might be evocative for those who have seen those films, they don't stand well on their own as musical compositions. And the lone-guitar driven track "Nash" is underdeveloped on its own, sitting as a musical setup to a payoff that is not evident on the song (it's less than a minute and a half long)!

"God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters" is pretty classic Moby, a beautiful orchestral track that creates a type of music that I call the new classical. There are no lyrics, the instrumentations are beautiful and conventional; this has a piano playing against a full string section with the themes playing off one another. It is slow, contemplative and clever, like much of the best classical music. He creates similar pieces on his two "Play" albums, so this becomes something of a harbinger to his later direction.

It's certainly not pop music, though and tracks like "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters" are not what one expects out of techno, and there's not a bit of danceability (unless one considers slow dancing in the moonlight and rain) to the track either. This makes it difficult to categorize outside new classical, though it becomes instantly believable for its presence in a film.

The final two tracks on the album, "Love Theme" and "Grace" are more traditional orchestral pieces that remind the viewer of the full scope of cinema with their long, slow strings and building crescendos. They have a generic feel that allows the listener to envision and imagine, which is usually the best one may hope for from classical music (either traditional or contemporary).

But my recommendation falls heavily toward the enjoyment of individual tracks on this work, as opposed to honestly recommending it as an album. The dance-tempo tracks like "Ah-Ha" seem out of place and . . . well, obvious and forced in comparison to the more clever orchestral tracks. It has the feel of being thrown on the album because that was what people might expect of Moby when this album was produced.

The best track is "New Dawn Fades," the low point for me was the unmemorable and musically dull "Oil 1" (which also could have been a porno soundtrack song!).

For other inventive musicians, please check out my reviews of:
Opiate - Tool
Real Gone - Tom Waits
Flood - They Might Be Giants


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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