I picked this CD out of the BOX OF CDS NEEDING REVIEWS at RTR FM. The album was actually released officially in February this year and as a fan of The Prodigy’s stuff from the ’90s, I thought I’d liberate it from the BOX.
There was a reason why no one had reviewed it yet. What follows is not the usual 250 word review that I write for RTR FM – I have one of those and it will be linked to later on. This post is long and is a track by track review of the album.
I thought I’d put it up for those who were curious. Fans of the genre/band have probably found out about it already anyway. Before you throw any rocks at me, please remember I am a The Prodigy fan from the ’90s. The review starts after the jump/cut/fold/more tag.
Track By Track Review:
- Invaders Must Die
There is a nice basic beat but then the second and third layers come in off beat and off time which throws the listener off. You find yourself asking the following: “Wait, is that the main hook and melody there?” A little later into the song, it seems to get rectified because the base beat and song change completely with a deep voice intoning “We are The Prodigy”. However this makes it sound like a completely different song. Perhaps they had a sequence that they really liked so they tacked it onto the start of this track? Unfortunately, the only band that can add random sequences together and still maintain an overall sense of continuity throughout the track are Garbage hence their name. The Prodigy may love this method of creating tracks but one minute into this album and it looks like it’s not quite working for them.
Apart from the intro, though this track starts sounding more like what you would expect. The melody (if you can term it that) of the track is recognizable now: beeps getting higher and higher in tone and sounding a lot like it should be saying “We are The Prodigy” or at least following that rhythm as set by the intoning voice at the start. This is interspersed every four sequence repetitions by a voice saying “Invaders Must Die”. But prepare for things to chop and change a lot. Suddenly everything changes to yet another different voice intoning over another set of similar beats “Invaders Must Die”. Hmmmm.
Yes I can dance to the title track, but hey anyone can dance to anything with a beat. Chopping and changing several times during tracks only works when you keep to the beat that you set up at the beginning and maintain a sense of overall coherence. Surprise us by all means but not mid beat or mid sequence, it makes us wonder if you can still keep count and rhythm.
Oh god, give this one a miss. The only way I could tell that this track was different from Invaders Must Die was because there was six seconds of fade out and silence inbetween. I seriously thought the first track was still playing. This tells you two things: 1) that the first track is a mishmash and 2) it is such a mishmash that it does sound like several different tracks put together in one so much so that when the second track starts you cannot tell the two apart.
The lyrics are “I hear thunder/But there’s no rain/This type of thunder/Breaks walls and windowpanes” sung in a Jamaican accent and rhythm but the basic beat remains much the same as the one used in Invaders Must Die. By this point, I was bored and again, I didn’t know the tracks had changed till I heard the lyrics. Whoops, there we go again, it just changed to the fourth track.
Same beat, again the track sounds the same as everything else, only the lyrics are different and they have a synthesizer warbling away which actually was the only good part of the song. I have no idea what the lyrics were: “Show your colours?” sung by two women. Bad lyric flashback to True Colours by Cindy Lauper anyone?
- Take Me To The Hospital
Now this track was different – a stand out track on this album? Will wonders never cease? This one does stand out. Was the rest of the album built around this one? First off, it samples two eclectic songs: Salami Fever and Ragamuffin Duo Take Charge. Second, it has to win the prize for the oddest song name that I have come across yet: Take Me To The Hospital though I have to say that Salami Fever is pretty cool too. In fact, I love the bits with the samples more than the bits that Howlett and crew have actually put together. Oh, wait, that’s not a good sign. *sigh*
- Warrior’s Dance
The name itself made me hesitate to listen to the track. It starts off differently to the rest of the album, rather slowly. Perhaps the intro that they stuck onto the title track might have been better used here. A female voice is singing but it’s very hard to make out what she is saying. There is a different beat here. The fact that it is different is good but it’s still not exactly the kind of track that makes you want to get up and dance. It is slowed down noise – boring. Different, yay, boring, nay. A bit disappointing really.
- Run With The Wolves
Dave Grohl (of Foofighters and Nirvana fame) played live drums on this track which accounts for the decent beat. Keef Flint took over vocals. Now this track is more like what The Prodigy must have tried to achieve with this album – reinvention of their ’90s sound. It has the composition and structure of Breathe and Firestarter but contains more new twists and turns and beats overlaying each other. This is the standout track on this album. Definitely. Grohl knows when to rein in the drums and beats, something not at all happening on the rest of the tracks.
- Omen Reprise
More of the same. Yawn. I must have fallen asleep or something because I somehow missed it on the first listen. On listening to it again, it is nothing but synthesizer and I mistook it for being part of World’s On Fire.
- World’s On Fire
Now this is an interesting track. It has a different beat that seems a bit more like Daft punk meets the Chemical Brothers. A lot of electronic keyboard sequences are layered over a couple of beats with a few lyrics and there are no heavy synth effects. The vocals are by Maxim and Keef Flint. However just when it got interesting, Howlett changed track and added a rather repetitive annoying sequence of the track name along with the annoying beat from before. This was sad, because this had potential as a track and instead it has just degenerated into more noise like in the first few tracks of this album.
This track was supposed to have some Indian music samples specifically Sara Zamana by Kishore Kumar & Chorus. I am still trying to figure out where exactly that bit is, unless it was that rhythmic wailing that made the track suddenly sound like it was out of a black and white Hollywood Halloween B grade movie soundtrack complete with the creepy mansion on a desolated hill. If that was it then they have sampled it and tweaked it beyond recognition. I also have no idea why this is called Piranha and there are lyrics that I can’t quite make out. There is a horn in here wielded by Tim Hutton. It breaks up the crappy beats but is equally annoying and seems rather random as it seems to be playing no discernible tune or melody.
- Stand Up
Hmmm, this is very different. It sounds at first like a pop rock band bringing in some heavy artillery in terms of drums and synthesizer. The melody with the horn actually is more pop in sound and reminds me of the first bit of the song Picture of You by Boyzone for the soundtrack of the Mr. Bean movie. I am sorry but that’s exactly what it reminds me of. I keep expecting it to continue and a pop band to break out singing at any moment. There is a sudden change to a crescendo in the noise that there is in the song but then it swaps back to the horn melody. It is quite odd to have this song on this album. It is very different but also one of the more enjoyable tracks.
Nine out of eleven tracks are horrendous to listen to. The same beat repeated over again for a total of 46 minutes gets boring no matter what you sling over the top of it. In mathematical terms that means that only 18% of this album is worth listening to – around about 6 to 7 minutes worth.
- Invaders Must Die NOT because it is good but because you should listen to it to educate yourself on how awful and incoherent and badly crafted a song in this genre can be.
- Run With The Wolves because Dave Grohl’s presence on this track seems to rein in the inexcusable madness that pervades the rest of the album. Though I hate the song name.
- Stand Up. It’s weirdly different and you should listen to it so you can understand what I mean by that. It’s bizarre and doesn’t quite seem like it should be on this album but it brings up the question of whether this was what The Prodigy were trying to achieve or if it was the Run With The Wolves‘ sound. It doesn’t matter what the answer really is because overall this album is incoherent as a whole, the only thing running through it is the same beat, same rhythm, sped up here, slowed down there with a few layers thrown over the top and the track name repeated in varying sequences and voices. It doesn’t make it seem like a lot of thought or effort has gone into it.
Take Me To The Hospital and World’s On Fire – both started out great and got screwed over by the addition of that damn beat after a minute in.
What Was Puzzling:
Half the track names. Where some of the samples mentioned in the sleeve credits were because you could not pick them out at all – did the noise drown them out? Also what did Howlett and crew intend to do with this album?
What Others Have Said:
Pitchfork’s review of the album said it could not really compete with present rave genre acts and so far they are right. In the ’90s noise and sequenced beats and layering in Breathe, Firestarter and similar tracks were genuinely something new and addictive. Returning to that formula when there are acts such as Daft Punk and The Presets reinventing the dance and electronica genre so well, is not a recipe for success.
Rather disappointed. I loved the old Prodigy stuff and I know they have to grow and change as a band but this seemed really awful. Not much growth, not much coherence. They sound like somebody trying to ape The Prodigy of the ’90s today but without really knowing anything about music theory or how to play an instrument. The only silver lining is that Run With The Wolves will be on my Ipod and that only just barely made the cut.
Stay tuned for a link to the condensed RTR FM review of this album if you are interested.