Moby - Go - the best of

2006-12-15 14:32
Since he successfully tapped into the zeitgeist with 1999’s Play, Moby (aka Richard Melville Hall) has become something of a minor cultural icon. This slightly built, shaven-headed vegan has come to represent a sort of apotheosis of Greenwich Village hipness – an environmentally friendly, anti-war, self-publishing phenomenon.

Unfortunately his music, or at the very least its popularity, has been in steady decline since his big break. So what do you do when your career seems locked into a free fall? Release a “best of” of album!

Funnily, this strategy seems to have worked. Whether dealing out adulation or grudging praise, few critics have dismissed the album entirely. It’s even selling briskly. The real problem is that this DVD, ostensibly a companion to the album, has almost no relevance or connection to that release whatsoever.

For a start the track selection is completely different. The double-album includes several songs that aren’t on this DVD, and the DVD features nearly a dozen tracks that aren’t on the CD. Even worse, several of the tracks on the CD are newer versions or remixes (the early hit “Go”, for instance, has been given a makeover) while the DVD only has the bog standard originals.

You could argue this is splitting hairs, that the DVD has 26 of Moby’s best music videos and that the track selections are similar enough for most people. Even if you’re willing to swallow that, why doesn’t the DVD have any special features or extras to speak of? Where is the interview with Moby? Where is the live performance? Where is the cheesy little behind-the-scenes documentary that fans so adore?

Yes, the DVD has a few “extra” tracks, but only one of them – an audition version of “Bodyrock” – could be considered special. The other three are simply different cuts of existing videos, such as the German version of “Natural Blues”. Apart from those tracks the DVD might as well have been copied directly from MTV.

In the end, the whole disc smacks of pure opportunism – of an attempt to simply repackage a bunch of existing material into a Christmas-friendly offering. Even the box is a letdown – a generic DVD case with no liner notes and a cover copied directly from the compilation album.

Cynical as it may be, the DVD still offers scattered enjoyment and some accidental insight into Moby’s early days. Arranged in neat chronological order, the disc showcases every stage of Moby’s varied career, from his early days as a rave DJ, to his abortive attempts at prog and punk rock, to his mega-pop-stardom and finally his gentle decline to the present. Predictably enough his last three albums make up over three quarters of the disc, with just eight videos from his first six albums.

The early videos are, at best, good for curiosity value (and a chance to see Moby with hair). Many of them are toe-curlingly stagy (“Come on Baby” springs to mind) and most have dated as badly as the music. The disc opens, appropriately enough, with “Go” and watching the psychedelic tomfoolery and amateurish visual effects you realise just how far music videos have come since 1991.

The quality takes a quantum leap forward as soon as the disc hits “Honey” – the first offering from Play. Suddenly the videos have compelling little high-concept narratives and visuals that don’t scream “camcorder”. This section has one of the most haunting and beautifully shot videos in the collection – “Natural Blues” – a good match for what is arguably Moby’s finest composition. For some reason the hypnotic “Southside” has not been included – which is ridiculous given all the filler on this disc.

While the videos from 18 and Hotel tend to merge into each other, there are a couple of real gems in the mix. “In this World” and its companion piece “Sunday” feature a gang of adorable animated aliens who come to earth is search of friends. The bizarre but fascinating “Beautiful” follows a cast of fur-suit wearing degenerates who carouse and swap wives, with violent results. And, for all the song’s blandness, the video for “We Are All Made of Stars” is a real visual treat.

As amusing as some of the videos are, you can’t get away from how much better this disc should (and could) have been. Sure, few fans would say “no” to such a large collection of Moby related material, but at the same time those fans have probably have found all this material themselves already. Save your money for the album itself – at least Moby himself had some creative influence over it.

- Alistair Fairweather
Moby’s first ever “best of” compilation is winning praise around the world. It’s a pity this DVD has virtually nothing to do with the album, and no compelling reason to exist.

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