Moby - Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt
Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt
March 2nd / Mute Records
Are you ready for 56 minutes of pure, unadulterated melancholia in the form of gospel trip-hop? Moby’s Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt is an intentionally imperfect, gut-wrenching and beautiful voyage of 12 tracks dripping with raw emotion. A quick look through the song titles gives away the mood you’re about to immerse yourself in. “Mere Anarchy”, “The Sorrow Tree”, “Like a Motherless Child” and “The Ceremony of Innocence” are just a few titles that sum up what’s in store. While the length and continuous desolation that reigns supreme can (will) be daunting, no one in music does it better. When you have the pedigree that Moby has, you’re entitled to more free rein to explore the depths of your emotional state more than others. Although in the end, Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt may be far too saturated in its own despondent down-tempo juices, those juices are delicious and worth tasting.
There are no production tricks, not that Richard Melville Hall was ever big on them. There are no drops, there are no build ups, there are no jarring sound effects. Drum patterns loop, string pads fill the stereo landscape, the tempo stays close to constant throughout and Moby executes his hallmark whispery spoken word. Every now and then, the bass comes out for a few bars to make our ears anticipate its warm caresses return. The fact that an artist can successfully create 56 minutes of engaging music with such simplicity is a real tribute to Moby’s talent. For the most part, Moby has kept his vocal political views and his music somewhat separate in his career, but that separation is getter smaller and smaller with each passing album. Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt isn’t so much a political album as it is an thematic album looking at what makes a human a human, through the lens of our political decisions. We are vulnerable, we are dangerous and we are imperfect.
The opener, “Mere Anarchy” (one of two songs named after the famous John Yeats poem) starts the album off on a heavier note, chugging along with a beat that will make you want to drive fast. Encapsulating the tone of the entire album, “Mere Anarchy” rises and falls, anchored by bright strings, spattering snares, and lyrics like, “Caution of the world you said was over.” Cryptically warning of the apocalypse, the song is a lot to chew on. The album does have its brighter moments. Well, one. “The Waste of Suns” isn’t exactly as bright as it is less sorrow-filled then the rest of the offerings. “Like a Motherless Child” plays like Moby’s version of Zepplin's “Immigration Song’, and it is intoxicating. Introducing our first female vocal appearance on the album, Moby slow wades into the gospel realm, three songs in. Ditching his slow singing style to this point, Moby accelerates his pace with some quick verses and offers up the first great song of the album.
The pace is quickly dampened, and the next few tracks, “The Last of Goodbyes” and “The Ceremony of Innocence” dig deeper into your heart. The latter with a simple piano loop that explodes into huge strings under a hesitant beat. If you don’t feel anything within yourself halfway through the album, you might want to check for a pulse. The emotional overtones continue to be enveloping on, “The Tired and the Hurt” and “Welcome to the Hard Times”, again relying on his strengths, beautiful piano, and weighty words.
11 songs in, Moby brings us a touch of guitar and what sounds like a full gospel choir. Despite his attempts to create sonic imperfections, “The Wild Darkness” is perfect. In an epic cinematic and climactic finish, Moby’s sings “I can't break what I held and it never was true, in the mirror what I said was I lied to you. And me and everything I see and everything I could, tried so hard to be good.” With that, the record turns to the album's finale, a welcome stripped-back jam track you could strut to. Smooth female vocals seduce over a wandering guitar riff and wet-with- effects drums. You can picture it playing in a smoke-filled room with sweat rolling the walls. Almost like a reward for enduring so much heartache, “A Dark Cloud is Coming” gives us a chance to pull ourselves together.
We’re not calling it a throwback album, but after his previous two albums were noisier, Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt takes us back to a time where Moby was in his element. In several interviews, Moby has expressed serious intrigue by the Japanese concept Wabi-Sabi. Inspired by that aesthetic of imperfection, Moby created raw, sparse, simplified and poignant elements throughout the album. Like his views on the vulnerability of humanity, the album is too, vulnerable. Defenseless without any powerful modern production techniques, cookie-cutter song structure or any real dynamics, the album will wash over you slowly and methodically. Whether or not you’re ready for an hour of rip-your-heart-out emotional splendor, is entirely up to you.