The seven years since Fat Of The Land have witnessed a truly terrible single ("Baby's Got A Temper"), at least one scrapped album and the dismissal of every Prodigy member save central beatsmith Liam Howlett, none of which suggests things were proceeding smoothly towards a convincing comeback in 2004. Still, while Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned has a paucity of clear-cut hooks and a maddening tendency to overload each track with warring ideas, it's a fairly impressive return to form.
Howlett's only guiding principle seems to have been "come in
hard," so he spews distortion, crunching guitar samples and typically
monstrous, occasionally retro-flavourerd breakbeats behind the ravings
of various guest vocalists: rappers Twista ("Get Up Get Off") and Kool
Keith ("Wake Up Call"), Liam Gallager ("Shoot Down"), actress Juliette
Lewis (contributing a charming sneer to the droll techno-punk
barnstormer "Hotride") and some dude named Paul "Dirtcandy" Jackson,
whose serrated snarl is the highlight of the fuzzed-out "Action Radar."
The production is ace, allowing some forgiveness with tuneless
puzzlements like "Phoenix" and "The Way It Is" and the overall feeling
of confusion. Not perfect, but probably far better than you'd expected.