Hotel rarely shows, in any shape or form, traceable inspiration from the new wave and post-punk era Moby advertised as being in full effect. More surprising is that apart from the lovely ambient instrumentals that open and close it, the album is all valley and no peaks, suggesting that the shelving of his sampling device was the worst creative move he could've made. The first half contains simple -- as in basic and/or emaciated, so we're talking poor -- modern rock songs that tend to be anthemic and soul-searching in nature. Lead single "Beautiful" is one exception, a tongue-in-cheek thing Moby has imagined being sung by vacant celebrity couples. No matter how affable, vegan, liberal, bespectacled, or vertically challenged he is, the real irony is that a millionaire and former love interest of Natalie Portman has made a song of this kind (see also: Aerosmith's "Eat the Rich"). Beginning "C'mon bay-beh, c'mon girl, c'mon bay-beh, c'mon girl, I love you bay-beigh, I love you now, I love you bay-beigh, I love you now," the heart of the song doesn't say much more, and some of the guitar jerks are a lot closer to Eddie Money's "Shakin'" than anything related to Joy Division. And, speaking of Joy Division, a very gentle version of New Order's "Temptation" is the album's deepest connection to post-punk; it's telling that Moby opted to leave the vocals to Laura Dawn, since he's less a singer than Bernard Sumner. This begins the non-rock portion of the program, which fans of Play and 18 might find easier to enjoy, but it's not much better than what precedes it. For instance, does anybody need to hear him volley obvious bedroom come-ons with Dawn, as he does on "I Like It"? (Because it's about as appealing as a phrase like "Woody Allen nude scene.") Hotel's saving grace is a bonus disc containing an hour's worth of ambient techno that's good enough for separate release. You could name the two discs after Moby's fellow bald artists, which would tell anyone what they need to know before proceeding. Disc one: "Live's Ed Kowalczyk"; disc two: Brian Eno.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo