Whenever The Prodigy release a new album, I'm always intrigued to see what direction Liam's taken it in. I'll confess, for me, there's always the hope that he'll not overdo the distortion and that his hip-hopish/ravey/breakbeaty roots will come through as well. His first album Experience doesn't really touch on rock influences or use distorted sounds, but it -does- show him to be a creative and pleasantly twisted musician with a skill for making energetic, up-tempo numbers. For me, even on the later albums, which in a lot of ways have a very different sound, it's this creativity and energy that keeps my interest. The whole "Keith Flint is dangerous" thing, while not even vaguely convincing, sort of works, but it's really all about the music. So I'm pleased to report that this album is just what The Prodigy are good at - energetic and musically very competent. Yes, there's distortion but it is used effectively and Liam's wisely dipped into some cheesier synth sounds, breakbeats and vocals, which adds a certain freshness and a little relief for the bleeding ears.
My first listen to the CD was at a moderate volume, more as a background track. I didn't come away that excited by what I was hearing and to be honest was a little baffled - the sound is quite different to the last album and I didn't quite know what to make of it. The final track (Stand Up) in particular was a complete mystery (although Liam was obviously stepping into new territory, which I figured is generally a good idea). Later I gave the album my full attention and a good dose of volume, and it was at that point that it clicked. It's an album that might make you drive rather faster than you ought to. It's the album that you might play a little louder than anyone who respects their ears ever should. It's energy packed and interesting. Prodigy doing what they do best then.
If there was anything to criticise about this album, it might possibly be the sub-Aqua standard lyrics. On the other hand, The Prodigy's strength has never been in it's sing-along lyrics or their ability to communicate deep life truths. Perhaps the lyrics simply ought to be taken as a little tongue in cheek or simply a bit of fun? And why not? A more legitimate winge might be that the cardboard packaging is really no way to look after a CD and DVD, but heck - it's not hard to take a back up and use those instead. (It might even be legal one day!)
So, after a couple of weeks of listening, I've concluded that this is a winner. And quite a big winner too. It may not be quite the knock-out punch that Experience was, but it's an excellent piece of work, and if you've enjoyed previous albums, then it's really too much of a risk not to buy this one - you'll almost certainly love it. Liam and the boys ought to give themselves a big pat on the back. And then get cracking on another one please...
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