Tuesday, October 6, 2009


It’s not hard to figure out why every band and musician strives for some kind of commercial achievement. This success equals money, fame and appreciation. But sometimes the hand that feeds you can also be the one that smacks you in the head with a blunt object over and over again until you bleed and die. I’m not talking about frivolous sex, excessive greed, stalkers or cocaine. I’m talking about car commercials, bad sitcoms and the movie Holes.

1999 was Moby’s year. His fifth studio album, Play—the audio bible of post-90’s advertising campaigns—put the experimental DJ on the commercial map. It was a feat few before him had accomplished.

Moby is considered one of the most influential electronica music figures of the 90’s, but it was Play, unfortunately, that also stumped Moby’s growth and recognition in the mainstream media since 1999. (This is arguably if you want to consider the adequate sales of Moby's 2002 release 18.)

I’m not trying to diss or hint at any displeasure in Play or Moby’s talent at all. I’m a huge Moby fan. I about cried when I heard my editor Jill passed him in Greenwich Village this summer carrying two Starbucks lattes in his hands. And the fact that Play is still the #1 selling electronic album of all time an entire decade after its initial released is indication enough that it’s nothing less than iconic.

It appears that the cover art for Play is just as iconic as the album itself. It’s refreshingly simple and raw—in true Moby fashion—while at the same time possessing a sense of sophistication and interest that leaves the listener (and viewer) curious.

The flush-left and flush-right alignments on the cover of Play are choppy and break the safe, traditional design rules of a centered, flowing layout.

Even the photographic content is awkward and unrefined, from Moby’s own disgusted facial expression and hairy chest to the photo assistant’s exposed arm and light meter. The photo’s unpolished harsh flash gives the objects a hard, unflattering shadow and light glare (see: Moby’s shining bald head).

The two splashes of red in the album’s title text and a cleverly placed “play” glyph tie the layout together in its own charming, loose-knotted form.

When you listen to Play, you may come to understand the design direction of the album art a little better. Every song on that album is so raw. Bluntly cut blues sample tracks are re-sewn together with streamlined house beats to create one cohesive masterpiece. That same patchwork of old and new transferred over to the cover of Play. It is simultaneously sleek and archaic, refined while awkward, recognizable while mysterious all at the same time.

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