The Prodigy – Ravers Fighting Invaders

June 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Music Australia Guide #63, March 2009.

Creative differences, personal tension and rumours of their dissolution notwithstanding, the fifth album from UK rave iconoclasts The Prodigy marks their coming-together as a group, writes Dan Rule.

There’s an energy in the room. An electricity. Sparks of conversation fly off on tangents; opinions are wagered; wild-eyed debates ripple back and forth.

We’re six floors above an impossibly hot day in Melbourne, and rave era legends The Prodigy are broadcasting a new, reinvigorated message.

“The first line on the record is pretty much the most important lyric on the entire album,” urges the trio’s producer and creative force Liam Howlett, flashing a glance at front-man Keith Flint and MC Maxim, who sit deep in their chairs to his right.

“‘We are The Prodigy’: it just says it all, you know, for us personally as a band, as well as reinstating where we’re at to the public.”

If there’s one thing today’s hotel suit encounter illustrates, it’s that The Prodigy aren’t going anywhere. With or without the web-wide rumours of disharmony and creative tensions, in their 20th year as a group, Howlett, Flint and Maxim seem closer than ever.

“We had troubles, certainly, and I think we’re quite happy to talk about that and get it documented,” says Flint, waving a heavily tattooed arm as way of illustration. “But the band certainly didn’t break up, and to tell you the truth, I don’t care if people think we split up.”

“We went though tough times and to come out of that is triumphant,” he pauses. “This isn’t some reunion – it still is very much The Prodigy.”

It’s written all over long-awaited fifth album, Invaders Must Die. Where 2004’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was a virtual Howlett solo album – with all vocal material handled by guests such as Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, New York rapper Kool Keith and actress Juliette Lewis, while his band-mates were conspicuous absentees – Invaders buzzes with band dynamics. From machine gun rhythms of first single Omen to the searing riffs of Run With the Wolves, the album throbs with ferocious break-beats, tearing synth and guitar sounds and, more than ever, Flint and Maxim’s abrasive vocals.

“This is a band album, straight up,” says Howlett, “whereas a lot of the rest of the time I’ve been quite isolated from the group. The guys have obviously come into the studio on previous records, but yeah, they’ve been more in the background. On this record, everyone’s really had more input.”

“And input on all levels, you know,” adds Maxim casually. “It was about being in the studio and listening to the tracks even in the embryonic stage, you know, when they’re just beats and whatever, and just giving our feedback on that, so that plays a big part on it, you know.”

It’s been a long time coming, but in many ways it’s hardly surprising. Since emerging from the UK rave scene in 1990 as a five-piece – including original members Sharky and Leeroy Thornhill – The Prodigy have never come across as the most personable of characters. Throughout the 90s, tearaway singles like One Love and Voodoo People from 1994 record Music for the Jilted Generation, and Firestarter and the controversial Smack My Bitch Up from 1997 classic The Fat of the Land cast them as one of the most volatile, uncompromising and downright menacing acts to ever make it to the top of the charts.

According to the band themselves, it’s no visage. Love it or hate it, it’s The Prodigy. “I think that if people are brutally honest and real, there’s something edgy about that,” says Flint with a snigger. “ If you can get the sense that these people aren’t fucking around, it makes you ask questions about what they’re about and I think that makes people uneasy.”

“The only scary element is only because we’re real,” adds Maxim. “There’s no pantomime involved.”

And that’s precisely what defines Invaders Must Die. “We only think about what’s going on right now, in the moment,” says Howlett. “And we’ve always been true to that idea.”

“Right now, this is the music we’re excited by and this is the music we want to make. If we don’t make music in that way, then we’re not The Prodigy anymore. It’s as simple as that.”

Invaders Must Die is out now through Take Me to the Hospital/Shock

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