The Prodigy – The Day Is My Enemy
Going backwards to stay angry, and partying like it's 1996
Take Me To The Hospital / Cooking Vinyl
Despite Liam Howlett's talk of The Prodigy's 'angry album', and the aggressive titles ('Nasty', 'Get Your Fight On'), The Day Is My Enemy is a conservative album. Aside from sprinkling occasional samples of Arabic music, and a melody line on 'Wild Frontier' that evokes eight-bit computer music, The Prodigy work the same template, of shouted vocals, industrial strength beats and ferocious electronic sounds, that bought them to national attention in the 1990s.
There are some highlights, but the relentless pounding and cut and paste aesthetics become predictable and mundane. ‘Rebel Radio’ descends into dismal, loutish bellowing, ‘Rok-weiler’ is as lumpen as its title suggests. Even the melodic ‘Beyond The Deathray’ is an expression of grandeur and power, and the synthesizer mayhem that was revolutionary two decades ago is too familiar to be startling.
If Howlett catches a rage in his beats, the vocals are disappointingly lazy: ‘Medicine’ seems to recall their classic ‘Poison’: but where the latter deconstructed notions of cure and illness in a few deft phrases, this new track is a football chant that hopes to be political ('a spoonful of sugar … to keep you in your place') only to swirl around, directionless and incoherent. When ‘Invisible Sun’ lurks on, towards the end of the album, a more sinister and brooding energy appears: even this is buried beneath a shouted chorus of limited sense.
Keith Flint – once a dancer, now given far too much time for his vocal and lyrical obsessions (swearing, being outrageous) – repeatedly ruins tracks: the finale, ‘Wall of Death’ alludes to Gary Numan's synth-punk and is a menacing crawl, before Flint turns up and does his best Slipknot impersonation.
Hearing Howlett's influences battling for supremacy – hardcore techno versus hip-hop break-beats and punk aggression – evokes a pleasant nostalgia, which is helped along by the music's relentless power. But even though the overall impact is undermined by repetition, individual tracks like 'Roadblox' and 'Destroy' recall the band who shocked and rocked British electronic into the charts and to the front of the music industry. That they're refusing to compromise, even with the evolution of the music they helped expand, is an admirable, and sometimes thrilling display of bravura.