The Prodigy

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned

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The Prodigy's main man, Liam Howlett, said in an interview that usual bandmembers Keith Flint and Maxim weren't on the new album because this is a back-to-the-core record, one to find the soul of the Prodigy (dancer Leeroy Thornhill left the band years ago -- losing your dancer, always crippling). For anyone rooting for the band, it sounded like a good deal. Howlett came off as a mad beat scientist of great genius on his goin'-it-alone CD The Dirtchamber Sessions, Vol. 1, rockin' the beats with mad style and blowing the dust off Babe Ruth's "The Mexican" just to prove how he was cooler than you. It was a sweet mix, but then nothing -- and then it got worse. But at least Howlett himself called 2002's dull "Baby's Got a Temper" single an F'n piece of S. Seems like he was well aware things were going wrong and has gotten himself back on the right track, so let's all go nuts for Prodigy again. Twiddling the knobs and making noises fly every which way, Howlett is working hard throughout Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned and with clean, punch-in-the-gut bass like this, there isn't a better record to sell those gigantic, "you'll have to take your backseat out" kickboxes. But take someone who just barely follows electronic music, tell him or her this is an everyday KMFDM record, and they'll fall for it. Nothing against KMFDM. They've got their rightfully sleazy place, but this is the Prodigy and Always Outnumbered is just loud workout music for the jilted generation. Lyrics? Try "Gimme! gimme! gimme!" and "You got to push it!" Not that "Change my picture/Smack my bitch up" was brilliant, but it was incongruous enough to have you going, "why do I keep singing this?" There's an inspired list of guest stars on this album -- Princess Superstar, Kool Keith, Liam Gallagher, Twista, Juliette Lewis -- but either their voices are so filtered it could be anyone or they're given nothing more to do than yell "go, man, go." Howlett had been all "I've got something to prove with this" in the press, but very little of that spirit comes through on the album. "Girls" is a good electro roller and steps ahead of "Baby's Got a Temper," while the surprisingly different and slinky "Phoenix" is proof Howlett hasn't totally lost it. Plus, you're bound to fall for at least one of the generic fist-pumpers. They do have that whipping sting in the tail of which Howlett is the master. That's barely enough for five years of waiting and hardly up to the old standard. That Always Outnumbered is no good reason for teens to put the Playstation controller down and rejoin the mainstream techno revolution is disappointing. As crazy as those glowstick kids could be, Prodigy concerts should have more than boring old farts who don't dance standing around. There's little of that rebellious and over-the-top excitement here, and that's bad news for those on the fringe of Prodigy fandom.

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