The Prodigy are Liam Howlett in the same way that NIN are Trent Reznor. Their debut album was one of the few albums by an out-and-out rave act that I could listen to from start to finish - every track a speed freak thumping pop/dance song with insidious hooks and bass to move rooms.
"So....To stop my work falling into the wrong hands, I've taken it back underground. " This is The Prodigy getting serious, a reaction to both their alleged teeny-dance status and to the British Governments proposed anti-rave laws. The titles and tunes allude to drugs, crime, and speed (of the motorized vehicle variety), making a concept album of sorts.
Few of the tracks go along with the first album's blue-print. There is much more of a variety of styles and tempos, with some tracks even borrowing perceptibly from the industrial, rap, funk and even soundtrack (imagine John Williams with break-beats) genres. Most of this works, although parts don't.
For instance, "Voodoo People" mixes up a Nirvana-riff ("Very Ape"), with 70's "Shaft"-style flute, and hardcore techno and comes out as a great bit of dance with a twist. In contrast the Pop Will Eat Itself collaboration "Their Law" trudges along on the back of a lackluster live guitar riff, going nowhere, and doing little to improve my opinion of PWEI.
Things finish off on a high note (in more ways than one) with "The Narcotic Suite", a collection of three drug related moods. Thus we have "3 Kilos" with its dreamy keyboards topped with super-fly flute and piano; "Skylined" with its alternating wide open expanses and hard dance; and "Claustrophobic Sting" with its dense roller-coaster beats cut with screams, scary laughter, and a voice repeating "My mind is glowing!" like a mantra.
This *is* definitely a more mature album, sacrificing the debut's vicarious pop thrills for more of an exploration of the dance genre, with varying results. Some songs are stretched out a little too long and there is a comparative lack of hooks (especially vocal) for the listener's ears and body to latch onto on initial listens, but really I'm nit-picking.
There are few dance acts who could produce an *album* as good as this.
The Prodigy will be embarking on a full U.S. tour in April. Tour dates will be announced at a later date.