They may say it's not fair to kick someone when they're already down. And you may not have noticed, but a guy called Moby recently released his new album "Last Night" amongst the most supreme indifference. A poke at him and one at the most fickle creatures in the history of mankind (the UK music press) is therefore too good to resist. Ten years ago, in fact, Moby and his LP "Play" were ever-present, the coolest things since sliced bread. All its tracks were used on TV, ads and films, an all-time record.
To look back now at 1998-99, it's clear how music distinctly resembled post-disaster Chernobyl. It may have been a consequence of the Britpop binge or horror-like videos of Blur milking cows with Damien Hirst, but the press decided that guitars were passé. Suddenly, if you wanted to look cool, man, you'd have to adopt a DJ posture and talk to your mates about your "decks", man. Better if with a bit of "ganja" in your pockets. Man. Late 90s students loved their Nike Air Max trainers and would routinely listen to grit-free Groove Armada, Air, Moloko and Basement Jaxx. In terms of popularity, however, none could hold a candle to Moby. "Really? You don’t like Moby? But he's so cool, man!" was what I remember the most from Year Two at Uni.
"Play" epitomised everything that had gone tits-up with the music industry of the time. Under the guise of "ambient", a pinch of cinematic feel and a sprinkle of "breakbeat", this safe, faux-alternative, dull, middle-of-the-road hybrid was literally shoved down the country's throat. You couldn’t watch 5 minutes of telly without hearing his music. No wonder 9,000,000 copies were offloaded. In halls of residence "Play" quickly outdid nicked traffic cones as the most cherished item. You had to have one. Echoes of its most popular hit Porcelain were heard everywhere: supermarkets, Boots and hairdressers as well as University corridors, along chattering of "Got so caned last night, man". The mosquito-like "Eeeehh, owah" and that exasperating piano, "d-d-din din din din d-d-din", would make you wonder if having yourself committed could be the only way to salvation. Not to mention the mock-cinematic bluesy gospel of Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? and the doing-your-head-in-effect of the mock-grainy sample "Ooh lordy troubles so hard" on Natural Blues. Music so bland, artificial and processed that if it were food you'd have to invent new E-numbers.
Luckily, the rest is history. Moby collected "best album of the year" awards and huge amounts of money, but the mark he left in artistic terms remained the equivalent of Lichtenstein in international relations. As The Strokes came along, and then Franz Ferdinand and others, music was given its crucial dose of CPR and the music press looked for new definitions of cool. Within two years, Moby was in Room 101.
Let's just hope that's where he stays.