18 might as well have been called "Replay", as Moby applies the same formula here that proved to be magic on Play.
If you've been following the musical wiz since early hits such as "Go", you are probably an adept of his signature sound, a hypnotic soundtrack that owes much to the themes of stylized TV shows such as Twin Peaks, Wild Palms and Miami Vice. Moby's music isn't about innovationAnimal Rights proved itbut about ambiance. The success of 18 will therefore depend on our need for his music as a soundtrack to our everyday life.
Blues and gospel voices, waves of synthesizers and melancholic melodies are the core of this album whose only novelty resides in the songwriter taking the center stage behind the microphone. If you saw him live, you know he is most of all a rocker who happens to compose electronic music. To lessen a probable frustration of being stuck behind his machine and to reclaim his rock status, Moby sings on four songs, two of which are singles. A pari risqué knowing that the failure of these singles will signal his recognition as an artist but not as a singer.
18 features a new collection of instant classics in the vein of Play. "In this world" is a typical Moby anthemthink "Natural Blues"with its gospel and haunting melody. A heady soul follows, "In my heart", reminiscent of the Everything Is Wrong era while "One of these mornings" is a seducing echo of "Why does my heart feel so bad". "Another woman" is quite repetitive but "Sunday" is definitely a good day. "At least we tried" is soft, "Rafters" is cheerful and "I'm not worried at all" is a pure gospel.
Moby's voice is awkward on the first single, "We are all made of stars", an unconvincing glam rock attemptbut proves to be more convincing on the catchy and more familiar "Extreme ways". "Signs of love" is almost a spoken work not far from "Porcelain" while the Orbital style of "Sleep alone" is caught between minimalism and boredom.
"Great Escape" is like a whisper with a voice on the edge and a clavinova-like accompaniment. The instrumental "Fireworks" is very 70's, like a Dirty Harry soundtrack. "18" and "Look back in" are forgettable. The rap/soul "Jam for the ladies" is probably the only unexpected track here but the gem of the album is undoubtedly "Harbor" a beautiful and serious song featuring Sinead O' Connor.
18 is the risk-free work from an artist who can do better, but it's certainly a guilty pleasure.