Whatever side of the fence you fall on regarding Moby at his most commercial peak, he's always had a deft touch when handling vocals. Therefore, what's a shrewder move than revisiting the catchy, beat-driven electronic pop of your best-selling album, with a host of credible vocalists who hold various degrees of contemporary relevance? After the instrumental intro, replete with familiar Moby beats and those epic string washes we all know so well, the album starts off strong with "A Case For Shame," one of the standout tracks, and one of two featuring Canada's Cold Specks.
While the album starts off on a promising foot, if you look past the vocal performances, the instrumentation wears thin quickly, much like a Hollywood blockbuster that blew its entire budget on special effects. "The Last Day" could be an outtake from Play, superimposed with vocals from Skylar Grey, while the majority of the middle section of the album, such as "The Perfect Life," featuring the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, is so cloyingly commercial and homogenous — with a different singer, it could easily be the main theme on a Disney soundtrack — you can't help but be reminded of the novels of Douglas Coupland: a nation of pacified sleepwalkers walking around in GAP clothes buying identical products.
The bogged-down record is lifted briefly by '90s-sounding commercial house track "Saints" — isn't that the beat from "You've Got the Love"? — and another, slightly more forgettable collaboration with Cold Specks before the welcome, tranquillising tones of Mark Lanegan hit on "The Lonely Night" (a song released earlier this year as a single for Record Store Day). In some ways, there's honesty to Innocents — in its staidness and homogeneity — that's always been part of Moby's sound and, in many respects, it's better to have an album that sounds like it could have been made in the latter half of the '90s than the potential embarrassment caused to listeners and producer alike if he had consciously tried to claim some kind of compromised contemporary relevance by incorporating dubstep tropes (let's not mention his collaboration with Dubsidia). Innocents contains some great vocal performances and catchy hooks, and despite the tent ropes being held down by the weight of mediocrity, it'll please many Play-era Moby fans and radio listeners as ideal background music for patio conversations about how their stocks are performing. (Mute)