Once he was America's rave-anthem king, and now he's America's Fatboy Slim, leaning on old vocal samples (in the public domain and therefore royalty-free) to find his bluesy, big-beat sound on "Play." Moby's MO is to fashion his tracks around vocal snippets from preblues warblers, going back to the dusty choruses of old 78s (listen to the song "Why does my heart feel so bad?" ) to find his sample-enabled soul.
There are brighter, if quieter, spots than the catchy lead track and single "Honey," but they all follow a similar format. The epic ambient lilt of "Porcelain" finds Moby stepping up to the mike, but it's the clipped-off sample voice singing "woman" that provides the hook. Thus inspired but smart enough not to sing too much (he uses sampled vocals for good reason), Moby crafts a few of his own tech-blues explorations to round out the album. But when Moby breaks ranks with his sampler brethren and actually plays electric guitar, the results are flat. To his credit, "Play" shows that Moby's finally thinking in album-length arcs. And for all its simplicity, there is a likability, if not an almost-in-spite-of-itself profundity. Play on.