Moby had a new album come out on Friday, and my review… well, let’s say I really liked the first seven songs. I consider it a mixed review since I was very complimentary about that early set of tracks but was not as fond as three of the last four, which were very good piano ballads but didn’t belong on a dance album. I don’t need a ton of extremely sad bricks dropped on me unexpectedly.
I do feel bad about it, though, because I really like Moby and his work. I have a soft spot for late ’90s, early ’00s techno, back before the genre exploded into a million subgenres I will never be able to keep track of. It was the sort of steady but melodic dance music that works exceptionally well as background music when writing code.
So, to make it up to Moby and his entire genre, here are five of my favorite songs by Moby and his contemporaries. Please don’t take it personally that I thought the last chunk of your album should’ve been a standalone EP.
Moby — “Porcelain”
I realize it’s basic to love Play, assuming the kids still call things “basic.” But Moby’s breakthrough fifth album is legitimately great and holds up 21 years later. I could easily make this list entirely songs off Play, specifically “Porcelain,” “South Side,” “Bodyrock,” “Natural Blues” and “Run On.”
In fact, while looking up the videos to link to in that list, I’ve wanted to change the featured song four times. It really is a genuinely great album, shockingly packed with classic songs. Just the singles from Play would be a successful career output for some musicians.
Also, not a single depressing piano ballad in sight
Fatboy Slim — “Star 69”
First off, I apologize for the censored version of the song in this video. You can probably fill in the missing word.
It’s probably just my experience but Moby and Fatboy Slim will always be connected in my head. They both make electronica and they were in the same section of Tower Records back in the day. But I’m sure I’m going to get lots of angry tweets and comments for lumping them together because through the lens of history, they’re entirely different genres.
Regardless, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars got almost as play on my headphones when coding as Play, which is saying a lot. And, despite it not really being the most musically complex song on the album, this one stuck with me the most. I’m sure it says something about my psychology.
The Chemical Brothers — “Block Rockin’ Beats”
Now we’re inching into the very specific subgenre of “music to hack to.”
Thanks to “Hackers” and “The Matrix,” not to mention legendary nerd outlaw Kevin Mitnick, hacking was extremely cool in the late ’90s and early ’00s. And this song is a pretty textbook example of hacking music. This is what you’d listen to while typing green words onto a black background before “PASSWORD ACCEPTED” appeared on the screen and you’d say, “We’re in.”
I’m not claiming to have been any good at hacking myself—at least not without looking up what the statute of limitations is for computer crimes.
The Crystal Method — “Busy Child”
I admit I frequently get The Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method confused. I mean, their music is similar, they’re both three-word names, and they both start with “The C-” so you can hardly blame me.
Both are good, though! And both are tragically in the heart of that iPod era where people owned fewer and fewer albums, but the songs they bought weren’t permanent enough to pull out of storage. That began earlier for the sort of person who listened to these bands. These were early adopter acts.
Dirty Vegas — “Days Go By”
I’m not sure how well this fits the theme, to be perfectly honest. I associate them because they scratch the same musical itch for me, but this one is aurally distinct, though closer to Moby than the other three.
So why is it here? Because it’s a great song that nobody seems to remember. And you should! You should also remember the extremely great acoustic version from the very same album! I actually think I like the acoustic version more than this one, but sadly this isn’t a list of my favorite acoustic versions of songs by the original artist.
Maybe next week.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.