Rock stars of advancing years seem to have two possible futures. The first is to play the Silly Old Goat, as pioneered by Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and anyone else who thinks seducing impressionable young cocktail waitresses or tumbling out of palm trees looks like fun. The second is to become a Contrary Old Git. Pretty much invented by Bob Dylan, it requires talent that has not been entirely ruined by the pleasures of success and the courage to be rubbish for more than a decade before remembering to be brilliant again.
Liam Howlett must have watched the rise of Klaxons, Pendulum and Justice with interest, because the Prodigy's fifth album covers similar territory: dance music with a heavy rock slant, as well as the ululating toytown rave noises of the early 90s. He can't be accused of pilfering their ideas, though - it was the Prodigy who blazed the trail for this style of music with their first three albums. In fact, throughout Invaders Must Die, Howlett steals from his back catalogue: Thunder heavily references 1992 single Out of Space.
Twenty years after England's Summer of Love, rave had made a comeback -- at least in indie circles -- and Liam Howlett's Prodigy, the only original rave group still going (anyone remember Altern-8?), could hardly have done worse than jump aboard. But Invaders Must Die is a curious nu-rave record, as though the sound of 1991 (such as their Top Ten hit "Charly") has been filtered through the sound of 1996 (such as their number one, "Firestarter") to emerge as nothing more than a hodgepodge of uptempo dance music with extroverted beats and grimy basslines. If that sounds basically like your average electronica record circa the turn of the millennium (albeit produced by one of its greatest heroes), then you're a long way towards understanding what this nu-rave record from the Prodigy sounds like.
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.
I’d like to offer my apologies to the Prodigy. In this line of work, it’s easy to lose your faith. Aging bands tend to adopt a downward trajectory after touching or glimpsing the limelight. The rest of their careers tend to be defined by that singular moment, either as a reaction against it or a desperate attempt to recapture it.
Everyone's favourite punk / dance crossover act, Pendulum - sorry, The Prodigy - are back to take off your head, and transport your body to a claustrophobic dance floor before catapulting you into a gurning oblivion. After the underwhelming Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, ringleader Liam Howlett has tracked back to the smash rave crossover of Jilted Generation and mashed up vintage polysynth lines with broken guitars and a scattering of whirlwind beats; mostly repeating his recipe for success. So Pendulum strayed from their Drum 'n' Bass roots and tried to wade into Prodigy territory with the (mostly awful, yet commercially successful) In Silico.
Anybody who remembers 90s Prodigy videos has to admit they were an unnerving bunch. Vocalist Keef Flint looked like a serial-killing raver, and their ultra-aggressive sloganeering and bludgeoning breakbeats were like a modern-day soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. [rssbreak] On Invaders Must Die, only the second release since the band's 1997 career-peaking The Fat Of The Land, the danger isn't quite there any more.