A fox scurries through a scorched, graffiti-splattered hellscape in the video to ‘Nasty’, the first single from The Prodigy’s new album ‘The Day Is My Enemy’, chased by red-coated hunters. The Essex agitators know the feeling of being hunted by an establishment baying for their blood – in their early years, they were demonized by MPs, newspapers and everyone in between for allegedly promoting domestic abuse, arson and anarchy in their button-pushing music videos. Twenty three after their powerful debut, ‘Experience’, and 21 years after ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’, the record that established them as a totemic name in British dance, the trio may no longer find themselves at the centre of moral panics or hounded by the authorities, but little else has changed for Liam Howlett and co, at least on the pulverizing evidence of ‘Nasty’. A thundering happy slap to the senses, propelled by primal howls about censorship (“triple X-rated!”) and the same drum ‘n’ bass breaks they were plundering two decades ago, time has done little to dull their infectious, anarchic fury.
The message is blunt. Arriving three months before a general election which, if the Tories win, will see fox-hunting legalised again, or so they’ve pledged, the song and accompanying video riffs on the widening gulf between classes in the UK. “I ain’t no tourist,” snarls Maxim as the video’s fox is backed into a dark, festering alley – a combination that, hot on the heels of heated debates about growing gentrification in London, following a surge in overseas investors buying up housing to be turned into “safe deposit boxes” for wealthy foreigners, packs a firm political punch. Yes, it’s pretty in-your-face imagery, but there’s a time for subtlety and let’s face it, this current panicked moment in British politics isn’t it.
Musically, ‘Nasty’ unfolds at the same nuclear-powered pace as 2009 ‘Invaders Must Die’ lead single ‘Omen’ but with a shit tonne more menace, every now and again breaking down into disgusting scrunched synth noises and plinking guitar sounds. “I’ve always seen music I like as a form of attack. That’s what I use music for, it’s an attack. I didn’t plan this album to sound violent, it’s just the sound that came out of the studio, a kind of build-up over the last four years,” Liam Howlett said recently of ‘The Day Is My Enemy’, describing it as a mash of apocalyptic noises: “drones and chaos… a subverted militaristic snare, a distorted break, a glitched dub attack, a Middle Eastern refrain, a cacophony of in-car dissonance, a symphony of random noise soundtracking life at the edge of the night.” ‘Nasty’ suggests that wasn’t just talk.