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Somber mood

Music | Moby's message isn't obvious in Wait for Me

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

To what extent should a musician's political ideology or religious faith affect a fair-minded listener's response to his music?

The question is easy to answer when the musician in question writes overtly political or religious songs. It's tougher to answer when his songs seem to come from a less obvious place.

One would be hard pressed to deduce from Wait for Me (Little Idiot), the latest album by the techno-rock superstar Moby, that its creator is a self-described bisexual Christian who supports PETA, opposes war, and campaigns for Democratic Party candidates. Half of its 16 songs have no lyrics at all, and the lyrics of the other eight function more as impressionistic verbal minimalism than as fully formed thoughts.

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Even "Study War"-of which the main vocal part consists of a black preacher repeating, "[A]fter awhile the battle will be over, for that day when we shall lay down our burden and study war no more"-is not a pacifistic anthem but an expression of belief in Christ's Second Coming. That belief is emphasized by the song that immediately follows, "Walk with Me," the entire lyric of which is a prayer sung by what sounds like a female gospel singer. (As if to balance the emotional equation, the title cut features another woman singing the line, "I love my hands, but it hurts to pray.")

Whatever Moby's motivation, his pervasive draping of thick layers of electronica over medium-tempo electro beats creates a mood of somber, somewhat desperate, reverence.

Of course, such an effect may simply be what one gets when absorbing ideas from David Lynch (a speech of whose inspired Moby's approach) and hiring Sigur Rós' Ken Thomas to do the mixing.

Or maybe one's love for Christ, no matter how unformed, ultimately trumps one's politics.

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