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By Brett Villa
The Prodigy is coming to South Side Ballroom on May 5, 2019. Tickets on sale this Friday, February 8 at 10AM at LiveNation.com.
Modern popular culture is a tourist trap. It seduces us to walk the easy path, to embrace the safely recognizable and to gorge on the unchallenging, endless, streams of homogenized mass-market pulp. See the sights, hear the sounds and always take the predefined route until those streams become stagnant pools and
nothing means anything anymore.
The Prodigy has never taken the lazy tourist route. Since their inception in the heady rave days of the UK’s last truly oppositional subculture, they’ve eschewed the obvious and followed the path less trodden. Not for them rehash after reboot of their biggest hits. Not for them the bandwagon jumping, sales chasing genre shifts of so many of their contemporaries either. Each and every turn in their story has been one of determined independence.
The Prodigy is one of the most culturally significant bands of the last thirty years. Main man Liam Howlett and vocalists Maxim and Keef Flint have soundtracked the midnight hours with iconic tracks like ‘Charly’, ’Out of Space’, ‘Firestarter’, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, ‘Omen’ and ‘The Day is My Enemy’. Their albums have dominated charts all over the planet. While others have followed the corporate whoring cash cow and delivered their souls to the mainstream machine, The Prodigy trio have stayed defiantly underground and remained true to themselves. They dominated the illegal rave scene, challenged anti-rave legislation and redefined the whole idea of what a band should be like. They brought UK electronic music to the US heartland and took no prisoners with their raw and incendiary live performances. They took the poison to places where other bands feared to tread and became the first of their generation of bands to play in Russia, Romania, Serbia and Macedonia. They turned metal kids onto raving and ravers into metalheads and put out genre destroying record after genre defying record. From the very start The Prodigy were renegade revolutionaries. Put simply, The Prodigy are no tourists – and never were.
‘No Tourists is ultimately about escapism and the want and need to be derailed and not to be a tourist and follow that easy set path,’ explains Liam Howlett in his North London studio. ‘In these times we live in people have become lazier and forgotten how to explore. Too many people are allowing themselves to be force fed, with whatever that may be. It’s about reaching out further to find another alternative route where the danger and excitement may be to feel more alive… not accepting that you can just be a tourist. That’s what the title is about for us.’
No Tourists is the band’s seventh studio album. A ten-track attack of cut and destroy euphoria that screams ‘we are The Prodigy, champions of London’, it is unashamedly forged from the sounds that they’ve made their own. The cacophony of chaos, the structure destroying b-lines, the sensory attacking beats – the foundations of The Prodigy sound. It’s an album of contorted and violent production that sees Liam Howlett once again turning expectations inside out. From the opening jackhammer impact of first single ‘Need Some 1’ to the closing 303 acid house thunder of ‘Give Me a Signal’, No Tourists takes you on a journey through the twisted, party-hard psych of a band that has resolutely followed their own route through the underbelly of popular culture since day one. It’s every inch a Prodigy record and it’s their most direct, concise and pure statement yet.
‘The whole album draws on the best elements of the band,’ Liam says. ‘It was important it felt fresh but at the same time drawing on our history and sound without being retro. Fuck retro, there’s no future in retro!’
The single ‘Need Some 1’ opens the set with its two minutes and forty-five seconds rush of Lolletta Holloway sampling ferocity. It is a fierce and slow swagger of a tune that brings the irresistible force of old skool rave into a collision with the darkside of an analogue synth attack.
‘It’s always important for me to write music that has that certain tension and danger – that’s what I’m about,’ says Liam.
What follows is the violent acid rock of ‘Light Up the Sky’ in which guitars combine with a classic attacking Prodigy riff and acid 303 mayhem. Throughout, Maxim’s spitting vocals wrap around an uplifting chorus from long-time contributor Brother Culture. ‘Light Up the Sky’ has the danger.
‘We Live Forever’ brings together both Keef and Maxim on vocals over an sinister ascending riff that keeps coming at you until erupting into a violent energy only Howlett knows how to bring. A Kool Kieth vocal hook interjects in between Keef and Maxim. This is the sound of evil rave.
Next up, the title track ‘No Tourists’ comes in with Beastie Boys-style swaggering drums, an epic Bond-like anthemic soundscape laced with Maxim’s vocals. The message is direct – ‘No tourists, no ride is free’.
‘Fight Fire with Fire’, a collaboration with new jersey’s finest noise crew Ho99o9, is a down tempo, heavy grooved sure fire banger.
‘This was the first track I wrote for this album,’ says Liam. ‘As far as doing a collaboration, the Ho99o9 guys were the main band I wanted to work with and this tune has so much danger embedded in it. It’s the best collaboration we have done.’
If ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ is the sound of Liam playing dirty in New Jersey, then ‘Timebomb Zone’ finds him deep in the early 80s New York club scene sampling Alfonso in a tune that takes us back to the roots of the Prodigy sound. Like ‘Need Some 1’ it fuses tension with an uplifting vibe and a slice of bad acid alchemy.
With Keef and Maxim’s dueling vocals, ‘Champions of London’ already sounds like a classic Prodigy tune. All of the band’s live elements are present on this urgently uptempo ferocious rocker. It’s pure fire.
Next, we’re straight into the cut and thrust of ‘Boom Boom Tap’, which may be one of Liam’s most off kilter tunes yet. Hypnotic and out-on-the-parameter, the tune encapsulates a twisted humor whilst delivering a punch to the ribs.
‘Resonate’ melts lysergic fairground melodies, evil ambience and another slice of reggae vocal hook gold dust. It’s a sure fire banger which gives way to the stunning album closer ‘Give me a Signal’ featuring Barns Courtney on vocals, an acid house 303 climax that is pure flashback for the rave generation and Keef leading the charge with a challenge to ‘ride on the edge’ with his iconic snarling vocal.
No Tourists offers ten tracks of pure fire, dark side danger that simply don’t fit with lazy and passive culture. But then again, The Prodigy don’t fit either. They don’t do what’s expected of them. They don’t walk the obvious paths. They’re a burned out car in the countryside, a fox in the city at night, a night bus to oblivion. They’re renegades, outsiders, outlaws – always hiding in plain sight. They’re the most important act of their generation. In these times of bland, mass produced, homogenized fodder, they’re more relevant, more needed than they’ve ever been.
The Prodigy ain’t no tourists.
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