Revisiting former glories … the Prodigy
Few bands captured the early-1990s zeitgeist as effectively as the Prodigy. Outdoor raves – notably the huge Castlemorton Common festival in 1992 – were seen as a such a threat to public order that John Major’s Conservative government brought in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in 1994, to outlaw gatherings of people dancing to “repetitive beats”. Although this could technically mean anything from Orbital to Morris dancers, Prodigy tracks such as Their Law soundtracked the music community’s fightback. As dance music shifted indoors and into the mainstream, 1994’s double platinum Music for the Jilted Generation defined an era.
Some 24 years on, producer Liam Howlett and dancers-turned-MCs Maxim Reality and Keith Flint don’t greatly deviate from a formula that has served them (albeit with slightly diminishing returns) ever since. Synths stab all over the place. Sub-bass rumbles like an earthquake, and Light Up the Sky’s electronic riffs rock like AC/DC. The two vocalists yell over the racket – but not often enough, bar an occasional “Shut your motherfuckin’ face” or the title track’s “No tourists, nothing to see”.
There’s certainly as much to infuriate them in 2018 as in 1994 – from the Trumpocalpyse to universal credit – but urgent beats back disappointingly empty slogans (“We live forever”). Only the dystopian Champions of London seems to engage with the times, and even then with little beyond vaguely alarming soundbites (“Civil unrest, grab the bulletproof vest”). It’s left to Howlett’s music to pick up the gauntlet and it certainly packs the rampaging, rowdy energy of old. Need Some1 clatters over its Loleatta Holloway vocal sample. No Tourists adds a classical grandeur vaguely reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, and the band find another gear with the excellent Boom Boom Tap’s hurtling menace. Terrific closer Give Me a Signal (with Barns Courtney) gives a Roland 303 acid squiggle a shiny polish. Overall, it’s an album that ably and enjoyably revisits their classic sound, while never quite escaping the long shadow of those former glories.