By: Si Forster
Released on October 14, 2016 via Mute
I like surprises. The nice ones, anyway. The ones I usually get don’t usually fall into that category, so it’s all the more pleasant when a decent one pops along. Moby’s new album certainly qualifies as a surprise, and it’s a most welcome one at that. Of course, he’s quite good at surprises as Animal Rights is a gleeful testament to, and These Systems Are Failing does kind of fall along those same “well, I wasn’t expecting that” lines in a way that both captures first the attention and then the imagination of his audience. And maybe we’re all somewhat better equipped to listen this time too.
“We’re destroying the world, and we’re still miserable” is a statement that that forms part of this record’s manifesto. To be honest, it’s refreshing that a record in this modern age actually has a manifesto, let alone one as angry as this. Moby well and truly has a voice here, and in These Systems Are Failing he uses it to its impassioned fullest, bolstered in no small fashion with the addition of the D.H. Lawrence-inspired Void Pacific Choir, a title apt in both its geographical and psychological inferences, although peaceful is anything but the result here. This is anger filtered through euphoria, music designed to both move and move anyone listening. And it works.
The first thing that passes through the ears and brain when ‘Hey! Hey!’ begins its delightfully-punctuated way through your system is “what?”, but it’s a perfect way of introducing whatever’s going on in here. Part rave, part punk, part pop, mostly “what?” though, it’s as good and honest an opening gambit as you’re likely to hear from someone deliberately swerving once more away from his – and our – comfort zone to something he feels to be right.
The guitars are also back in force. ‘Break. Doubt’ owes a reasonably-sized debt to the industrial, Killing Joke-informed agitation of the early ‘90s, and this is something that runs throughout, adding a New Model Army sloganeering stomp to an already busy palette. There are gentler elements hidden within however, although perhaps only relatively-speaking, usually thanks to a human emotion among all the spiky electronica and overdriven guitars. This seems to work best during Are You Lost in the World like Me? where the aforementioned choir comes together rather beautifully to place an ascendant spin on a very downbeat subject.
There is no respite, all the way to the very end. Closer ‘And it Hurts’ gives Joy Division’s ‘Interzone’ a run for its money with a barrage of brutalist concrete post-punk to complete the driving-in of These Systems Are Failing’s point. Walking away once it’s finished is a strange experience as, despite the anger pushed through as an expression of joy, it’s a sad record. To what extent you believe and feel Moby’s own convictions within yourself is down to you and me, but the main sadness for me is that this sort of emotion seems to have skipped a generation or two and we’re all still looking to people who should be informing and guiding today’s generational voices rather than stepping up to replace a gap where these voices are absent. Maybe Moby’s somewhat unexpected outburst (not alone among his generational peers as we’re seeing right now) might finally inspire others young enough to pick up the baton and get angry enough themselves to stand up. Or maybe not. It’s a blessed relief to see that people are still trying though.
Ultimately, These Systems are Failing has provided a massive splash of colour and joy to what I have to admit to having a slightly tattered brain of late and if something can put a stupid, I-don’t-care-if-you’re-looking-at-it grin on my face and a whole litany of new thoughts and ideas firing around my synapses at the moment whilst having so much obvious fun in creating something that can do that, then that’s all fine and dandy.