In the press notes for Last Night, Moby describes himself as “an evangelist for big, piano-driven rave anthems,” and while I will likely use several of those descriptors in my ensuing review of the album, he can probably be best described as a nightlife fetishist. According to the liner notes, Last Night attempts to cram an eight-hour night on the town into about 60 minutes, and in many ways, it succeeds, with the evening beginning with the lumbering, trashy, late-era disco of “Ooh Yeah” (with its squelchy guitars, swirling synths, and elastic porno basslines), peaking with the Euro-disco of the Moroder-inspired “I’m in Love,” and ending with the pre-dawn chill out of songs like “Mothers of the Night.” But the album’s concept spans much farther than just one decadent night at Studio 54; this is a night that takes you on a nearly two-decade, physics-defying narrative arc from the Paradise Garage to Twilo.
Eminem once famously (and mistakenly) declared that nobody listens to techno, and using Em’s broad, unschooled definition of the word, that fact is summarily discounted by the standout “I Love to Move in Here,” which features the Cold Crush Brothers’ Grandmaster Caz and points to a period when, to quote the album’s press notes, hip-hop was innocently “happy to cozy up to disco beats.” (Not just a nostalgia wank job, the album also points to hip-hop’s future on the single “Alice.”) Moby even gives a nod to his own past on the techno rave-up “The Stars” and the ambient house track “Sweet Apocalypse,” while at the same time acknowledging what was going on in the mainstream while he was trying to snag a feature in Rolling Stone: “Everyday It’s 1989” pays homage to a period when recycling was all you had to do to save the planet and when Hypercolor tees and snap bracelets were the most technologically advanced items kids brought to school. It’s a booming, piano-driven house track (all that’s missing is a sample from “Love Sensation”), while the single “Disco Lies” evokes the bitch-diva house anthems of the late ‘90s.
The big, tall, ice-capped keyboard chords and faux soul samples that have become Moby’s signatures are present and accounted for, but aside from some usual sped-up vocals, he wisely abandons taking the mic like he did on his last two albums. Instead of big names, though, he delegates that responsibility to people like an Algerian expat he discovered in a New York karaoke bar on “Hyenas” and it’s a risk that pays off. Last Night ends with the title track, which features vocalist Sylvia Gordon and evokes a sunrise-lit walk home after a night out clubbing, and a sexy (and sax-y) Gia-heroin hidden track—just to be, you know, as accurate to the NYC clubbing experience as possible. These songs aren’t as transcendent as a Chemical Brothers comedown, but they’ll suffice until the Chems reunite with Beth Orton.