Review Summary: Break out the glo sticks boys and girls, we're gonna party like it's 1991 all over again
There isn’t a single word that can truly sum up the distinct style of The Prodigy. Over the course of a twenty year career they have released some of the most defining ‘electro’ tracks of all time, and conquered the world many times over. From their beginnings in the late 80’s/early 90’s old skool break beat rave movement, to their punk influenced rave crossover sound of the mid to late 90’s, as well as their early 2000’s take on electro funk and acid pop, the beat merchants have reveled in the ability to avoid being pigeon holed in one singular genre. But just like many of their fellow contemporaries in the dance scene, The Prodigy have found themselves at somewhat of a crossroads in recent years. Just like The Chemical Brothers, who has of late have almost completely eliminated the big beat tag from their sound, a genre they spearheaded and helped to push into mainstream attention in their early days, The Prodigy have also spent the last few years apparently questioning their relevance in a genre that has seemingly become overpopulated and inundated with self parodying acts who would almost seek to topple the genre that long standing acts such as The Prodigy fought for so long with to be accepted as a real force in the music world. The Prodigy were THE act to give the dance scene a personality, a much needed edgier quality. Gone were the days of after school special sampling ('Charly'), in the mid to late 90’s they exposed a much more dangerous and incendiary characteristic to their style, infusing the genre with a potent bite. Turn on MTV today, and chances are within 20 minutes or so, you’ll come across David Guetta and Akon sitting in a pool, with Akon singing about how attractive (sexy) that chick (bitch) is. Thirteen years ago, the BBC received more complaints about Keith Flint banging his head against a subway wall than any other music video, ever. So when you are The Prodigy, and are set to make your highly anticipated return into a genre that has become overrun with pop sensibilities and fashion icons what do you do? You regress.
Every initial report to come out of The Prodigy camp spoke of the same thing, that this album would “return to the old school roots of yesteryear, while still remaining cutting edge”. In a decade’s worth of album hype and pre release buzz there have been few instances where I can recall comments by the artists themselves that have actually rung true, but this is exactly that. Invaders Must Die
is not merely a brief salute to days long gone, or even a casual flirtation; this is an homage to the day-glo aesthetics of the early rave scene that gave birth to The Prodigy. Fusing supersized bass with polysynth lines, broken guitar licks and huge scatterings of whirlwind beats, this is Liam Howlett and the boys repeating their recipe for success and showing the world why they were so damn relevant in the first place.
Taking all of 30 seconds before the first rush hits you, the opening sampled voice that rings out is a true declaration and a testifying statement signaling their return, ‘We are The Prodigy’. ‘Invaders Must Die’ serves as the one of the perfect openers in recent memories, it opens fast and it opens hard. Showing off Liam’s regained love for breakbeat, the marching beat percussion pummels along under a barrage of cheesy synth and sampled voices. Second track and 1st official single ‘Omen’, picks up right where ‘Invaders’ left off, and leaves no room to breathe. Blasting out with wall of sound bass, this is The Prodigy sound of old returned from the grave to set fire to dancehalls everywhere. It’s loud, abrasive and as in your face as anything off of The Fat Of The Land
. Featuring the return of everyone’s favorite madman and idolizer of The Sex Pistols, Keith Flint delivers a solid performance, though at times he almost does seem a shadow of his former self. Lyrically this isn’t Shakespeare, but Keith sets out to remind anyone who will listen that The Prodigy were in fact never gone and therefore have apparently nothing to reclaim with cries of ‘the writing’s on the wall, it won’t go away’. ‘Thunder’ shows Liam once again bringing in an obscure reggae track to cut and splice. Just as Experience’s
‘Out Of Space’ featured a rendition of Max Romeo’s ‘I Chase The Devil’, this time we’re treated to an obscure cut from The Brentford Allstars being thrown around the room by a scintillating pulse beat drenched in up tempo 808 style kick drums and distorted guitars.
Despite a promising start it’s not until the mid way point that things begin to heat up. ‘Take Me To The Hospital’ is a time warp, a neon tinged return to the Experience
days complete with era perfect vocal sampling and chopped up synth drops. Even Keith’s vocals recall visions of e bending madness, with such quotable lines as “Along came a spider, he was creepy like Dracula. He spoke like he was a friend, so I came with adrenaline
”. It is however the next track, ‘Warrior’s Dance’, which serves as the high point of the album, perfectly situated in the middle. An old skool rave joint explosively backed by a hip hop break that deliciously underpins the enticing female vocals, once again an early 90’s staple. Sharing a lot in common thematically with both 97’s ‘Breathe’ as well as 94’s ‘No Good (Start The Dance)’ it shows The Prodigy excelling in what they do best.
Moving into the second half of the album we’re treated with a guest appearance from one Dave Grohl, who lays down a hypnotic and pulsing beat on the skins as Keith launches into a tirade about any of the current musical acts that wish to keep up with them. ‘Running With The Wolves’ is an assault on the ears, with one man bomb squad Liam relentlessly pushing his moog to extremes, dropping high pitched wails and squeals all across the board in a manner not too dissimilar from a Kerry King solo. ‘Omen’ features a reprise that while I’m sure would be nothing short of breathtaking as a live intro, seems completely out of place and under utilized segued so far into the album. Any indications that this reprise was designed as some sort of descent into a lapse in tempo are quickly knocked aside as ‘World’s On Fire’ drops. With an unmistakable 303 synth line and a golden era countdown that transitions nicely into the harder hitting side of the track, the song goes for the jugular and doesn’t let go. The closing track reveals one of the most interesting cuts The Prodigy have ever put to record; ‘Stand Up’ sees the boys wading into the big beat pool, a genre they’ve been associated with for a number of years despite the fact that they’re just now deciding to step into it’s waters, (even though The Narcotic Suite
’s ‘3 Kilos definitely leaned towards the genre). With an unmistakable Fatboy Slim vibe the songs trundles at an excellent pace, providing the necessary requirements for foot tapping. It’s an interesting choice to leave on; while it serves its purpose as a good come down from the rave qualities of every track before it, the complete style change feels slightly jarring and leaves an almost sour taste in one’s mouth. It’s by no means a terrible track, but almost feels better suited as a b-side or as a bonus cut.
Invaders Must Die
is an interesting addition to the catalogue of The Prodigy. Remarkable in it’s approach, but small in its scope (the album literally flies by, with no real track outlasting it’s welcome), it is an album that won’t win them any new fans, nor will it do anything to alienate their already existing and devoted fanbase. With such a territorial title, it’s obvious that Liam and the boys felt that they had a lot to prove with this record, and they do. In their absent years, the entire dance scene has gone through a drastic overhaul and the question had to be asked: how does The Prodigy fit into it now? While not the perfect sound of return (both ‘Colours’ with it’s non album track ‘Warning’ re-tooling, and ‘Piranha’ with it’s almost surf dance music vibe aren’t needed), there’s a lot on offer here to suggest that The Prodigy are back to make nightclubs and dancehalls worldwide a dangerous place again. Some might love the reappearance of both Keith and Maxim on vocals, some may hate it, but what everyone can be certain of is this: The Prodigy is back.
On November 11th 2009, The Prodigy released Invaders Must Die
in a Special Edition format. While I won’t go into obscene detail over it, I will touch on a few aspects.
Tacked onto the end of the 1st disc are 2 of the Lost Beats
cuts: ‘The Big Gundown’ and ‘Wild West’. While none of the songs represent The Prodigy sound, the latter in particular throws in some interesting house infused electro-funk styling’s that make for an enjoyable listen. Also present is the live version of ‘Omen’. The mixing for this is adequate; the only noticeable difference being that this is the single version of the track, thus the tempo has been increased for a more mainstream effect. If you’ve never been to a Prodigy set, you’ll also find out exactly what Maxim does on stage. Trust me, you’ll hear it.
The 2nd disc presents us with some great, and also some decidedly dodgy, remixes of everything you’ve already digested. Some interesting contributors find their way onto this disc (namely Josh Homme), but the usual styles are all represented adequately. Without going into volumes of details, individuals wishing to expand their musical palette need look here for great examples of their respective genres:
Invaders Must Die (Chase and Status Remix) – Dubstep
Omen (Noisa Remix) – Breakbeat
Omen (Herve’s End of the World Remix) - House
Invaders Must Die: 3/5
Invaders Must Die Special Edition: 3.5/5