Moby’s fifth album, Play (1999), was the commercial — and arguably artistic — high point of his career. It was an album that defined what mainstream electronic music sounded like at the turn of the century, with its crackly breakbeats and mournful blues samples. But its success left him subsequently disoriented. A quick laundry list reveals every track on the record licensed to different commercials, a jaded fan base crying "sellout," and ultimately an uber-popular Eminem dis culminating in a beef involving an insult comic dog who wishes to remain nameless.
By the time the ruckus had settled, Moby offered an inferior follow up with 18 (2002) and then wondered off into awkward-troubadour territory on Hotel (2005). The decline in quality and interest in Moby’s post-millennial work would seem to point to an obvious plan of attack: to return to the sound of his almost universally applauded Play.
Last Night is indeed a look back, but surprisingly not to the sound that made him someone that your mom has heard of. Instead Moby has spent his downtime deejaying and, perhaps, reminding himself why he began making music in the first place. If anything the record plays out like a long-needed follow up to Everything Is Wrong (1995). Here many tracks ("The Stars," "Everyday It’s 1989") revisit Moby’s love of major-chord anthemic patterns and soulful divas crooning something vaguely optimistic.
Elsewhere Last Night plays out like a survey of electronic music, though perhaps dominantly preoccupied with the 1990s. Opener "Ooh Yeah" could have easily found its way into one of Norman Cook’s deejay sets, and lead single "Alice" sounds like a paean to the Prodigy. And though it’s doubtful that any of these qualities will duplicate the success that Moby had in 1999, Last Night is a surprisingly solid and fun listen for anyone who ever gets nostalgic for MTV’s Amp.