Moby doesn’t just sound a bit like the David Bowie of the seventies on opening track "We Are All Made of Stars". He also has the ability of David Bowie, and Madonna for that matter, to pick up pieces of and trends in the contemporary culture and make music out of it. If his latest record "Play" in a way could be categorised as sampled blues, "18" can be summed up as sampled soul (as one critic has noted). This is not a problem. "18" is a great album, full of competent, easily listened to, tracks.
But the musicianship is maybe too competent. "Feeling has given way to craftsmanship, for better and for worse", my esteemed colleague Mattias Huss wrote when Moby released "Play" three years ago. I can’t but agree. I mean, Moby obviously has the feeling - no doubt of that. It is just that his craftsmanship sometimes gets the better of him, making "18" into a very even album, too even in a way. After listening to it one time, one is left with a feeling of too many songs, not being able to discern between them. Then, after listening to it a couple more times, a few highlights crystallise (like the brilliant "In This World" and the mentioned catchy single "We Are All Made of Stars"), but the initial feeling persists.
Maybe Moby just is too damn good for his own best - at least in making easily listened to electronic music, aimed at mass consumption? "18" would have been a truly great album if Moby just would have cut out like five songs and made it a bit edgier, less streamlined. At least he should have thrown away his try at hip-hop ("Jam for the Ladies") at an early stage in the creative process.
In its current form, "18" is a cool and well made album that many people will use as background music. Not much more.