Monday, 16 March 2009

Invaders Must Die

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die
released 23 February 2009 on Take Me to the Hospital/Cooking Vinyl

Every now and then, a song comes along that grabs you by the scruff of the neck, pins you against the wall and demands to be played over and over again. The title track from Invaders Must Die, The Prodigy’s fifth studio album, is that song. It starts simply enough, it’s just the same bass note repeated seven times. That may not get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up on paper, but those notes have just the right amount of reverb on them to let you know that this is classic Liam Howlett. The bass rumbles on, before a riff comes in, then a drum beat, and the whole time the track is building and building, the tension ever-increasing. The music stops, a distorted voice proclaims, “We are The Prodigy”, and we’re off: jackhammer drums, grinding industrial guitars and a behemoth riff that could strip paint. It’s the most exhilarating opening track you’ll hear all year and gives the rest of this album an awful lot to live up to. Ultimately, it can’t fulfil its early promise.

Both the title track and the current single, Omen, are built on the kind of riffs that are so infectious, it would be difficult to not make fantastic songs out of them. These are the best tracks by some distance and interestingly, they’re the only two songs where Howlett shares producing duties – his partner in the studio being James Rushent of Reading electro-punks Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Bar a few inspired bright spots, the rest of the album is faceless Prodigy-by-numbers. The attention to detail is astonishing with the craftsmanship behind every beat, bass squelch and keyboard stab clearly evident, but it hardly matters when you haven’t got the tunes to back it up. The songs – Omen and Invaders Must Die excepted – could have come from any Prodigy album in the last twenty years; they’re built around nihilistic drums, aggressive synths and vaguely threatening phrases tossed together in the vain hope they might represent some form of meaningful lyric. Crucially, however, they lack the humour of a Charly or Out of Space or the immediacy and pop hooks of a Firestarter or Breathe. In short, nothing really stands out.

That’s not to say there aren’t positive points to take from this album. Keith Flint makes a welcome return on vocals, and his beery, leering style lifts the tracks he features on. Dave Grohl makes a couple of guest appearances too, and the Grohl/Flint effect is at its most potent on Run With the Wolves, where Flint drawls, “Yamug, swy-ayadda cutchoo daan, yarun wivda wolves whilea hunlika haand" behind energetic work from everybody’s favourite rent-a-drummer. Incidentally, if you don’t speak fluent Basildon, the above lyrics are actually, “You’re a mug, that’s why I had to cut you down. You run with the wolves while I hunt like a hound.”

After that, there’s not much else worth reporting: Take Me to the Hospital is a claustrophobic, nightmarish come-down to begin with, but the effect is slightly diminished by a mid-section which sounds like the poor relation of No Good (Start the Dance). Colours features singing children and what can only be described as rave panpipes – both choices are equally questionable. Closing track Stand Up actually makes an effort to break new ground, attempting to add muscle and bite to The Go! Team’s cartoon-dance shtick, but by then it’s too little, too late.

Invaders Must Die isn’t a bad album, but in the end it suffers from having a beginning which is, if anything, too good. The UK music scene would be poorer without them but if they are to move forward, it’s time to learn that they need a few more tunes to go with their own brand of hardcore raver’s machismo.

No comments: