The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

The Essex rave legends warned us their sixth album would be more "violent-sounding". They weren't kidding.

Essex rave legends The Prodigy have become such a consistent and huge live draw in the 21st century – uniquely capable of headlining both rock and dance festivals like Sonisphere and Global Gathering, as they did last year – it’s tempting to think of their albums as subsidiary to their shows. Liam Howlett, Keith Flint and Maxim Reality leave long gaps between them (the last one, ‘Invaders Must Die’, came out in 2009; its predecessor, ‘Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned’ five years before that), and they’ve been road-testing material from sixth album, ‘The Day Is My Enemy’, in the run-up to its release for over a year, as if the primary purpose of recording new songs is to create more ammunition for their gigs.

You could also argue that while their shows have lost none of their power over their 25-year career, their albums have. But that’s not exactly fair. ‘Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned’, which was received coolly as the delayed follow-up to 1997’s 10-million selling ‘The Fat Of The Land’, is a significant, leftfield record in their catalogue and if ‘Invaders Must Die’ was their patchiest offering – despite reaching Number One – it’s possible to understand it now as being a symptom of upheaval behind the scenes. It was the first Prodigy album not released by XL – a label built upon their success – and instead emerged on their own Take Me To The Hospital imprint, which they hoped to use to release other artists’ music, but haven’t.

To hear ‘The Day…’ is to realise that ‘Invaders Must Die’ was a transitional record. As songwriter Liam Howlett told NME last year: “Tracks that we like playing live from ‘Invaders…’, like ‘Omen’ and ‘Take Me To The Hospital’, are the template for what we wanted to do with this record.” That means ‘The Day…’ is more “violent-sounding”, as Howlett also said, and at times it’s spectacularly aggressive. It opens with a bombardment of military drums and electronic noise (the title-track, which features a vocal from Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird) before dropping into single ‘Nasty’ – a classic big beat Prodigy tune and a perfect vehicle for Keith Flint’s singing/yelling.

‘Nasty’ is a funny track, and so is ‘Ibiza’, a scathing takedown of lazy superstar DJs featuring Sleaford Mod Jason Williamson, who is excellent barking out the chorus line, “What’s he fucking doing!?” But ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ is far from a comedy record. Despite occasional relief, it’s angry, using just about every strain of UK dance music that’s bubbled up from underground in the band’s lifetime – techno (‘Destroy’), drum’n’bass (‘Wild Frontier’, ‘Roadblox’), dubstep (‘Invisible Sun’), breakbeat (‘Medicine’, ‘Rok-Weiler’), dance-rock (‘Get Your Fight On’, ‘Wall Of Death’) – to create an intentionally dense and threatening barrage of sound, seemingly just for the hell of it. There’s no explicit, over-arching theme, like there was with 1994’s ‘Music For A Jilted Generation’ and, thankfully, little notice taken of stylistic fashions in dance music, other than perhaps with ‘Rhythm Bomb’, a collaboration with Towcester DJ Flux Pavilion.

Unquestionably, every song has been written to add firepower to the band’s live show, but it’s nonetheless the strongest and most confident Prodigy album since ‘The Fat Of The Land’. Depending on what you think of their last two records, perhaps that’s not saying much, but it feels like the group are back, even though they’ve never been away. These are big tunes, supremely produced by Howlett, and they ought to persuade doubters that The Prodigy, as Howlett told The Guardian in January, “should be seen as an important cultural band, as important as Oasis or Blur or any of that shit”.

Phil Hebblethwaite