For several years I have been intrigued by the name Joan as Police Woman and her multifaceted musical career but I had never seen her perform live. So the gig at The Haunt provided an excellent opportunity and although this tour was essentially to promote the new album Let It Be You a collaborative effort with Benjamin Lazer Davis (a new discovery for me), this was nevertheless a marvellous chance to see this much respected multi-talented instrumentalist up close.
Within five seconds of playing Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – These Systems Are Failing, you’ll have the same thought as me, “This isn’t Moby.” On one hand you’d be right, the opening salvo of ‘Hey! Hey!’ is a visceral blast of industrial-pop-electro-punk that doesn’t sound like the Moby of recent years but on the other hand you’d be wrong. While musically he’s mixing punk, 80s rock, industrial and pop, think of a heavier New Order and you’re close but he’s still sounding like, well, Moby.
Opening track ‘Hey! Hey!’ welcomes you to the album with neon synths and pounding beats. In a nut shell this is the musical equivalent of George Orwell’s ‘three minutes of hate’. But like most Moby albums there is an overall theme, rather than just a collection of songs. This time Moby has had enough of the way things are and wants us to change our ways by doing nothing and then starting again; “These Systems Are Failing. Our best choices are killing us. All brokenness comes from separation. We're destroying the world, and we're still miserable. Fat, sick, stupid and anxious are no ways to live. These systems are failing. Let them fail. Change or die.”, states the full manifesto.
The longer These Systems Are Failing progresses so does the repetitive nature of the music. What Moby is basically doing is coming up with a simple chorus that plays into the “Build it up, Tear it down” ethos, recorded some music in the vein of heavy New Order, then written some words that have a vague relation to said chorus. Then he’s repeated this trick another eight times. There is a slight charm to the simplicity of it all, but this doesn’t equate to a good album or the need to play it more than a couple of times.
‘Break. Doubt’ follows on the heels of the opener. Like ‘Hey! Hey!’ it’s fast, distorted and slightly psychotic. Searing synths jostle for your attention with massive basslines and beats. At times it feels like a cover to a song that never existed. While this doesn’t make sense, it is slightly true. Everything about ‘Break. Doubt’ feels like a Gary Numan track from the 90s, but sadly it’s not. ‘I Wait For You’ follows on, then ‘Don’t Leave Me’. This is when the album starts to fall over. All of the songs start to merge and if you aren’t paying attention, you don’t know where you are and, more importantly, how many songs are left until it finishes. When the album does finish it’s with another ‘banger’. ‘And It Hurts’ is the shortest track on the album, but due to the tedium you’ve just endured it feels like the longest.
As with previous Moby albums, Moby, Everything Is Wrong, Animal Rights, Play etc, they start off with a good/interesting concept, but by the end the overall message is lost over a cacophony of distorted guitars, muffled vocals and abrasive break beats. Which is a shame, Moby clearly has something to say but it’s all lost over a feeling of middle aged privileged angst. With songs titled ‘Hey! Hey!’, ‘Break. Doubt’, ‘Erupt & Matter’, ‘Are You Lost In The World Like Me?’, ‘A Simple Love’ and ‘The Light Is Clear In My Eyes’, you get the impression that Moby feels they are revolution (propaganda) slogans for the disenfranchised, but the songs are nothing more than that, choruses over (semi) catchy music, but, like all revolutions, we need more. Yes we get it Moby, you’re angry about society and you want to see it all burn down… but maybe you’re really angry that your comeback album isn’t that great.