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The Prodigy ( http://www.theprodigy.com )

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
XL Recordings ( http://www.xlrecordings.com/ @XLrecordings )
After a ridiculously long period of silence, The Prodigy has finally released a follow-up to 1998’s critically hyped Fat Of The Land. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is actually easier to define by what it isn’t rather than what it is. FOTL was a truly great record and, while not an original concept (a group of DJs marketed as a band? Massive Attack anyone?) successfully crystallized the cyber punk culture and placed DJ style within the context of succinct, popular song. It didn’t hurt that they had a good, charismatic lead singer either. The Prodigy, which is now just Liam Howlett in the studio, have totally ignored most of those elements for Always Outnumbered. Howlett has placed the emphasis of AONO squarely on the beats while utilizing a legion of vocalists as ambient samples. It is to Howlett’s credit that he made such a scattered record sound coherent in that regard. On the other hand, where once The Prodigy throbbed with kinetic energy and were possessed of a unique voice, AONO begins to feel like another anonymous DJ mix as early as the first single “Girls� and never really picks up any sort of lasting vibe. Diamond-hard beats and breaks move AONO along with the vocals only occasionally registering (Juliette Lewis’ contribution on “Hotride� surges while the “Love Buzz� boot “Phoenix� injects new life into an old chestnut) as Howlett gets his rocks off on computer and turntables. The songs fairly crackle with the PCP fuelled energy that characterized the mixes of The Prodigy’s early work but, even so, the record does appear to only make concessions for the additional personnel rather than incorporate them into singular vision. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is probably the first Prodigy record that’ll see rotation in a dance club rather than an alternative club because the beats get jammed so far forward in the mixes. The downside is that means The Prodigy have ignored their core audience. The Prodigy have succeeded in getting back to their roots, but their roots isn’t what made them work. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is a great club record; but it isn’t a great Prodigy record.

By Bill Adams
Sep 29, 2004

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