The Prodigy – Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned Review

The Prodigy – Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
Maverick/XL, 2004

1. Spitfire
2. Girls
3. Memphis Bells
4. Get Up Get Off
5. Hot Ride
6. Wake Up Call
7. Action Radar
8. Medusa’s Path
9. Phoenix
10. You’ll Be Under My Wheels
11. The Way It Is
12. Shoot Down

If you’re an American and not a big fan of the whole “techno” thing, chances are you can still at least place The Prodigy with “Firestarter” and its crazy pierced up freako Keith Flint. But for those who went out and purchased Fat of the Land and perhaps worked backward to previous work, maybe even going so far as to call oneself a fan, it’s known that The Prodigy is the masterworking of producer Liam Howlett. Anyone else who hops on is just along for the ride.

It’s been a long journey for The Prodigy, especially considering their last true full release was in 1997 during the heyday of imported Brit rave music. Since then, 2002 brought a horrible attempt at a comeback with the ridiculous “Baby’s Got A Temper,” and it was unsure whether Howlett would bother continuing what he had long since started. With that, for a Prodigy fan, the first listen of Outgunned could be one of apprehension vs. excitement.

The first glaring omission is Flint. He’s nowhere to be found on this disc. Yet, that certainly doesn’t seem to hurt anything; he’s been replaced by fifty million guest stars, from Juliette Lewis to Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis to Kool Keith to the mostly-obscure Ping Pong Bitches. Most excellently, not a one of them is misused; that’s a start. But as for the songs themselves, it’s somewhat of a worry that they’ll ever be heard.

Outgunned opens with a strong rock fury in the opening track, “Spitfire,” one which instantly reminds the listener why The Prodigy once did so well. It’s a return to their 1997 form in a way that seems somewhat dated, but absolutely pounding nonetheless. The flavor of the day is angst, and this track captures it well.

As for the rest of the disc, there’s a lot of jumping around stylistically. “Girls” is oldschool to the max, once again updated with the undercurrent of fuzzy groove, feeding the illusion of dirty madness. It’s an outstanding track, but nothing else on the disc sounds remotely like it. “Hotride” shines with Ms. Lewis on vocals, eerily reminiscent of Oxygiene 23’s Jane Jensen. And the fun reworking of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” beat in “The Way It Is” makes you want to dance around like a zombie.

Unfortunately, all of that jumping around leaves plenty of gaps for filler. While “Shoot Down” isn’t bad by any stretch and neither is “Wake Up Call,” they seem to be nothing more than repetitive vehicles for their respective cameos, the Gallaghers and Kool Keith. While this may be a techno sound and it may be easy to fall into repetition simply due to the nature of the beast, there still seem to be an overabundance of fuzzy beats coupled with either goofy synth sounds or obnoxious rock blasts. It’s a formula built off of their past, whether it’s derivative of Music For a Jilted Generation or Fat of the Land.

Simply put, there’s nothing new or innovative in Outgunned. It’s like Howlett picked and chose from his past triumphs to create the perfect Greatest Beats mishmash, threw in some big names for good measure, and voila. This doesn’t make it a bad, unpleasant, or even unfriendly-to-techno-haters kind of disc. In fact, it makes for great background music with nonstop energy, something to groove to when in need of something groovy. And it’s got that classic Prodigy sound, one which many people on both sides of the pond have grown to love, so there’s nothing inherently disappointing for the majority of listeners, aside from the glaringly obvious omission of Flint.