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Date: June 2003
Review by Brian Draper
Moby's glorious Play, the ambient chillout bestseller of 1999 was part of a musical genre designed to bring clubbers down from chemically induced highs. But Mobys inspirational music had universal appeal, and could be just as stirring within a worship setting as it could for an acid-head.
It evoked a yearning quest for transcendence that was as popular with advertisers as with searchers on a spiritual trip. 'Play' was the first CD to license every song commercially a milestone on the way not to enlightenment, but the commodification of the arts.
Is it possible, then, to listen to the beautiful 18 (named after its 18 tracks) without fear that your innermost responses will be exploited for commercial gain? Probably not.
Its hard to lose yourself in the lilting affirmation of Im Not Worried At All (a gorgeous interpretation, maybe, of Luke 12?) when you know that a copywriter is poised to sell your peace back to you as a car. Its tricky to equate Were All Made of Stars (as you might) with the creative force John's Gospel calls the Word, because youre bracing yourself for it to be used to flog Milky Way.
But you should still partake of this album. The former clean-living, teetotal, drug-free Christian vegan is on good form, however postmodern his values. (Just when believers realised there was a Christian atop the charts, he turned his back on his strict lifestyle, arguing that it was a wrongful claim to moral superiority, after all. Shame.)
If a theme emerges from these soundbites and samples, its Mobys own personal fallibility. Extreme Ways explores his recent post-ascetic self-indulgence (So many dirty things/ You wouldnt even believe) and acknowledges how tricky it is to maintain a life of integrity (Then it falls apart/like it always does). Personal consistency proves elusive: I will hold you in my arms until we are both old I climb so high/And fall so low.
But its the feel of 18 that counts for more something that makes you feel free, connected, human; something that lifts the spirit; something that purely rational analysis cannot comprehend. Could it be the feeling you get when youre on the open road, with a good- looking partner, windows down, sunroof open, in the latest sports hatch...? Enjoy it while you can, before the next commercial breakdown.
This review is published in association with Third Way magazine.