Music has been really living up to what the title advertises lately: Bruno Mars’s “The Lazy Song” is an incredibly lazy piece of songwriting, Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” approaches something close to cheesy magnificence without actually quite tumbling over into it, and Moby’s new album, Destroyed, well, ought to be. The little bald dude may have his fans, but his painfully earnest Teflon electronica tracks have always seemed like the dance-music equivalent of Christian hip-hop to me, aesthetically superfluous and watered-down. He comes off like an inverse Chicken Little, insisting that the sky isn’t falling, so long as you hook into his placid groove—and agree with his liner notes. Even at its best (which, to my unforgiving ears, would include “Go,” “Machete,” “In My Heart”), his music seems to be trying to bring big drama, but he’s typically too po-faced to ever surrender to his own attempted sensations. So the “attempt” is especially fruitless for his newest album, in which he more or less tries to make an LP adaptation of Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control.
Suggesting longueurs in airports and hotels, Destroyed is terminally inert, mired in something that wants to be mindblowing 3-a.m. bliss, but more often than not suggests frustrated, fatigued insomnia. His reliable (and often fabricated) soul samples still float in and out of the mix, and in this particular case, they provide the album’s most compelling element. “Lie Down in Darkness” resembles a Play outtake, which is only a compliment in the sense that the album is the dweeb’s crowning moment. Otherwise, airlessness seems to be the default mode here.
I literally fell asleep (possibly in self-defense) on my first listen by the time it reached the fifth track, “Rockets.” I ended up having a vaguely disturbing dream about being on a conveyor belt suspended in the middle of space, drawing me closer and closer to a shadowy, tornadic obelisk that appeared menacing but wasn’t actually devouring anything ahead of me on the belt. The dream dissolved with the arrival of “After,” a string-laden tune that functions like a Quaalude-addled version of the Chemical Brothers’ “Galvanize” and is easily the most aggressive song on the entire album. While I have my doubts about mining dreams too literally for their subconscious context, in this case I took the imagery to be suggestive of my task in reviewing Moby’s latest album. The motion is uniform, the form is monotonous, the experience disquieting but benign. Destroyed is more distracted than coolly distanced, a satellite unmoored by Ground Control.