We can deny it as much as we want now, but, for a lot of us back in the '90s, a group like the Prodigy sounded like music's future. Knee-deep in our pre-millennium tension, the itchy rave-romp of Music for the Jilted Generation and The Fat of the Land spoke to the snarling uncertainty of a new century, smashing punk into dance into hip hop into rock 'n' roll because, presumably, once the calendar hit 2000, all hell was going to break loose. Although it's true a certain amount of hell has broken loose in the '00s, it wasn't quite the kind we had expected ... and the Prodigy's brand of cyberpunk didn't end up being this decade's spiritual soundtrack. Undeterred, the group's new album plows forward, making our times bend to the Prodigy's now slightly dated sonic outlook.
Invaders Must Die, the first Prodigy record to include vocalists Keith Flint and Maxim Reality since '97's The Fat of the Land, very much feels like a continuation of that album's strengths. (Tellingly, Prodigy mastermind Liam Howlett again samples the Breeders, as he did so memorably on that album's big hit, "Firestarter.") But while Invaders has its share of adrenalized electro-rock, Howlett smartly strips away the cartoonish aggression that hampered Fat of the Land. At one time, the Prodigy felt like a conduit for the menacing dread that a new age would most assuredly unleash. As accomplished as it is, Invaders Must Die doesn't so much reflect our era as it creates a comforting alternate reality — one where our biggest fear is getting dehydrated on the dance floor. If only it were so.
The Prodigy plays Friday, May 22, as part of the Movement opening night party at the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451. With Dethlab.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].