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The Prodigy

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned


Masters of reinvention, rave stalwarts The Prodigy have undergone another remarkable facelift for their fourth album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. For band leader Liam Howlett, this mutation was less about ambitious experimentation and more the result of crucial damage control: the band's disastrous 2002 comeback campaign, spearheaded by "Baby's Got a Temper" found the band stagnant and on the verge of self-parody. Howlett's response was to scrap the sessions, hunker down with a laptop and hammer out an album that held spontaneity as a virtue. And while the old touchstones--the propulsive breakbeats of old-skool hip-hop, the brooding menace of punk-rock and acid-house--are all here sporting a fresh chrome gleam, here they're joined by new influences: everything from crunk hip-hop to Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" bubbles beneath the surface of "Girls". Maxim and Keith Flint are absent, replaced by a bizarre roll call of stars--Liam Gallagher, Juliette Lewis, Twista--and obscurities… anyone remember the Ping Pong Bitches? Not that it matters: this is Howlett's album, and whether he's rewiring Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz" as Middle Eastern-tinged acid techno on "Phoenix" or clashing with Kool Keith on "Wake Up Call", he sounds back on top of his game.

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