28 August 2004
The Prodigy are back after a seven year hiatus. But, Chris Schulz asks, can they reclaim their former glory?
It was a hot afternoon in January, 1996. Kiwi crowds were sweltering at the Big Day Out when a bunch of virtually unknown British big-beat freaks took over the main stage.
As anyone who was there that day will attest, it was one of the greatest performances a Big Day Out has seen.
The Prodigy whipped the packed crowd into an hysterical frenzy, as Maxim Reality and Keith Flint spat out savage singles like Breathe and Firestarter over Liam Howlett's thumping rhythms. Dance and punk collided in spectacular style.
Fast forward to the present. Seven years have passed since the last Prodigy album, The Fat Of The Land, and much has changed in music since then.
We've had one Prodigy single in that time - 2002's circus-sampling blast, Baby's Got A Temper.
Critically panned, it forced Liam Howlett - essentially the one-man-band behind Prodigy - to scrap an entire album's worth of material and head back to the drawing board.
And here's the result: Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, a predictable - but still enjoyable - Prodigy album, that has no performances by Maxim or Flint.
It certainly starts promisingly, with the crunching guitar riff-fest Spitfire crashing into first single Girls, with its tinny breakbeat-sample opening into a thrilling bass blast.
Unfortunately, the momentum can't be sustained. Several sub-standard guest performances (Twista's rapping is far too fast for Get Up Get Off, while Juliette Lewis tries but fails to emulate Flint on several tracks) create a feeling of inconsistency.
Still, Princess Superstar is surprisingly good on the stuttering Memphis Bells, while Kool Keith continues to impress on the fuzzed-out Wake Up Call.
But the album's second half is padded out with filler - not what you'd expect from a record seven years in the making - that's only partly spared by the closing Gallagher-brothers guest spot on Shoot Down.
While it's far from being a disaster, it does feel that the Prodigy are treading water.
It's certainly not the end: A world tour is planned, while another album - this time featuring Flint and Maxim - is also in the pipeline.
And as that Big Day Out performance proved, the Prodigy are capable of anything - including a return to their former glory. Watch this space.
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is out now through Shock Records.