I was torn over this one, memories of kind of liking the singles in spite of myself conflicting with an impression of Play as music for middle class dinner parties - an uncomfortable update to the bluesy negro spiritual brought into the master's parlour for the entertainment of the women and kids; and of course you all know this album wouldn't have been anything were it not for samples from Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey from the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta. Yet the more you play it, the less you notice the contrast between the gospel sampling tracks and everything else. In fact the more you play it, the more you realise that what misconceptions you may have acquired are probably bollocks.
Wikipedia calls it electronica which I suppose is fair enough. I expected techno, or at least that genre which arseholes insist on identifying as instrumental hip-hop; but downtempo is as good a term as any, that being roughly what it is, and that being what it has in common with the likes of Aim, Fingathing, and so on. A lot of this stuff is kind of cock obvious - that shuffling Back to Life beat, stadium strings, those samples and tinkling piano falling just short of being the melodic equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting; but it works because Play doesn't seem to care what you think of it, and it's all so obviously well meant and recorded in such generous spirit as to dispel any objections accumulated through subsidiary association. It's Fatboy Slim without the element of trying far too hard or the self-consciously cool sampling. It's really just a wee baldy man having a fucking great time in his studio, and it's a wonderful thing to listen to when you've had a shitty day and need something without too many sharp edges.