Thursday, February 19, 2009

Track by Track: The Prodigy's "Invaders Must Die"


So... no doubt you are all aware that Prodigy are back with a new album come this next week... so I suppose after a decent, but not all the way there last album (I mean, I love you guys, but really? Juliette Lewis?), the question should be asked "Why should I care if the Prodigy still exist?"

Well lets start with last things first. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, the last album from The Prodigy, was an album 7 years in the making (which has happened with loads of great bands from Morrissey to Portishead) whose first single "Baby's Got A Temper" was scrapped for being like "the Prodigy writing a Prodigy song". The video was an amusing take on the image of the band, with older men putting on make up and suddenly appearing as the band members you recognize, then singing in a stable with women like milking cows (wearing little clothing) which we find out provides milk that is narcotic... riots ensue over the drug milk and then the Prodigy return to being old men and walk off. Apparently, Liam Howlett (the one who does the instrumentals not the singing) decided it was going to signal the death knell for the band but being too "same-y". The song did stick in my memory, and I thought it was a great tune, with a little snippet of "Firestarter" in it, talking all sorts of crazy shit about getting twisted on Rohyphnol (blah blah blah date rape drug blah blah blah)...

Here was the single...


After pitching the single, Liam pitched the rest of it. So, the first version of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was thrown in the bin (and I hope someday we hear these songs; anyone know where to find them) and a new version was recorded, omitting "Baby's Got A Temper". Other songs that were thrown out included 3D from Massive Attack (who Liam Howlett did the soundtrack of the Uranus Experimentwith, producing a song called called "No Souvenirs") which is a big bummer.

Presumably the other version of the album would have been like this...


The new version did have some VERY promising songs. "Girls" was a smashing banger of a track (which featured the Ping Pong Bitches on vocals) which was obviously one of the best things Prodigy had ever done. Here's the video... sort of a fascist WMC lol...


Then there was this (which wasn't SO great, IMHO)... which I think I would have enjoyed if it had actually been Maxim singing it... perhaps there's a live version of that I can get my hands on :) This was in House Of Wax I guess... this video sort of makes me like the song more lol...


But the point is the album was uneven. There as an amazing song with Twista called "Get Up Get Off", and another fucking stormer called "Action Radar"... the songs with Juliette Lewis were awful I thought. "Wake Up Call" was pretty good with Kool Keith, there was a reworking of Electric Blue's "Love Buzz", and a less than exciting track with both Liam (his brother in law) and Noel Gallagher called "Shootout"... which I think would have been better if it had been this "demo" version...


So, anyway, it was a mixed bag. Some great, a couple awful, a few mediocre, and just kind of disappointing. See, Prodigy have a way of making "alright" songs awesome just based on energy alone... I remember when "Firestarter" came out I bought into the WHOLE experience because the energy was so strong you could feel it. I had/have a shirt that says Prodigy Equipment, a poster for "Firestarter" with Keith Flint wearing the American flag sweater, some Prodigy dogtags, and like all their singles including the old ones. I ended up having a tiger print blanket in high school because the "Firestarter" single had that print... I mean I was all in... I got my tongue pierced because of The Prodigy. I decided I wanted to be a DJ because of The Prodigy... so when "Fat Of The Land" arrived even the less interesting songs sounded like gold because of the fury they possessed.

This energy didn't translate as much for "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned"... we didn't have Flint and Maxim (and the other dancer was long since gone). The rough patches were really pretty rough and die hard fans were left wondering what could have been.

Well, fuck the past, this is the rebirth of the Prodigy :)


The reason the Prodigy matter today is because they haven't lost their bite. They have a long legacy of really putting on a show, really standing for something (that something being themselves), and just fucking being out there. They don't need a statement of intent, they don't need to be like super indie, they don't need to pretend to be something they aren't... they're a force of nature and that's it. They transcend a lot of boundaries... rock kids like em, industrial and goth kids like em, DJ kids like em, even people who don't like any of the above listen to music like that at all. They're sort of unpolluted because they are their own "nation state"; regardless of their commercial ambitions (or lack thereof), or commercial failure, I've never felt like Prodigy were getting diluted.

"Invaders Must Die" is (often) a refreshing mix of 1992 Prodigy, and 1997 Prodigy superimposed upon one another. The first two tracks (which are the singles "Invaders Must Die" and "Omen" which were co-produced with Does It Offend You, Yeah? frontman James Rushent) are Prodigy at their best... the third track "Thunder" manages to sound current without deciding to do an 'Ed Banger', and it also reminds me of tracks off "Experience". "Colours" is an intense rocker track that reminds me a bit of "Serial Thrilla" in spirit. "Take Me To The Hospital" is classic Prodigy in every sense (and is good enough of a song to name their label after, or vice versa lol). "Warriors Dance" is a breakbeat-y, rave worthy track, with a really housey vocal... I haven't had a load of time to listen to this album but upon hearing this track repeatedly I think this is one of the standout tracks because it really sums up what Howlett has been trying to do for nearly 20 years (are those the horns from 808 State and Altern8's respective rave hits?)... "Run With The Wolves" is another fast paced rocker track (propelled by Dave Grohl's drums), and I'm not sure I've heard it enough to really rate it; bottom line you'll love it or you'll hate it, I can tell that much lol. "Worlds On Fire" is a good one that will undoubtedly get licensed for at LEAST 5 videogames (are they making a new Wipeout because this out go great in one lol). "Piranha" is like drum and bass break rave and it's manic energy is really fucking fun; it's hard to make a track like this any good because the elements are so overused but it takes cues from Noisia and newer artists who were no doubt inspired by Prodigy. "Stand Up" is an awesome song... and it DOES NOT sound like the Prodigy... I don't know if it's like a football anthem, or a new British anthem for a new generation, or just a great song that will be in adverts... but it has a Primal Scream type sound to it (both past and present) and it's just, well with the horns and all that, refreshing! I can't wait to listen to this in the summertime.

So there you have it. There's the In Search Of Arcadia review for one of the most anticipated returns in a while... all three members of the Prodigy, back together, stronger than before, and ready to bust some fucking heads. It's a return to form, and a total turn away from some of their previous efforts, resulting in an at LEAST entertaining album, and at best a new classic. Go check 'em out at Ultra Festival this year and say hi for me :)

Here's the video for "Omen"...

And "Invaders Must Die"...

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