There was a time where The Prodigy could have been considered the most dangerous band in the world. As rave culture ascended to dizzying new heights in the ’90s, the Essex collective soundtracked its peaks through albums like the sensational Music for the Jilted Generation and The Fat of the Land. Not only did the band court controversy everywhere they travelled, they welcomed it. They fed off it. Every protest, dispute and boycott seemed to only make them stronger.
It’s easy to forget how long ago that was — roughly 20 years, in fact — but it’s probably not lost on the surviving members of the group, producer Liam Howlett and MCs Maxim and Keith Flint. They continue to strive to attain that edge once more. Despite a generally well-received live show which thrives on the nostalgia for those raving days of yore, each Prodigy studio album after Fat of the Land has produced diminishing returns, which might explain the respective seven, five and six year gaps between them. Simply put, there’s very little of the old Prodigy left to get excited about.
The Day is My Enemy pushes for a wilder, more aggressive energy than prior records. The record is light, however, when it comes to a wider array of ideas. Sure, The Prodigy have never been (ahem) prodigious songwriters, but a quick look at the lion’s share of their hits indicates at least a mix of progressions, peaks and valleys, build-ups and drops. Not so here. Lead single Nasty almost comes across as a parody, with the use of the titular phrase recalling characters from The Young Ones. Elsewhere, Medicine is not only ugly and repetitive, it bears a striking structural resemblance to the band’s own Spitfire.
There are moments of respite when outsider elements are introduced. Sleaford Mods frontman James Williamson motormouths his way through Ibiza, indicating what his day job might sound like if he ended up in the wrong nightclub. Producer Flux Pavilion, meanwhile, makes his presence known on Rhythm Bomb and throws in a contemporary spin on Howlett’s swinging-hammer production approach. Alas, it’s not enough to completely pull the group out of the trenches.
In spite of the new album’s title, The Prodigy are truly proving to be their own worst enemy. It may well be time to both literally and figuratively shave off the mohawk and walk gracefully into the sunset.
‘The Day Is My Enemy’ is released in Australia this Friday, 27th March.