The Prodigious Return
Review by Neil Thakor
Trance fans need wait no longer: The kings of rave have returned. Without releasing an album featuring all three members of the band since 1997, The Prodigy has finally come out with its fifth studio album, “Invaders Must Die,” and the album is worth the wait.
Although The Prodigy has been around since 1990, it is still groundbreaking in 2009 and the band can still appeal to all of its fans. “Invaders Must Die” has everything: a little bit of the band’s old rave roots, some modern electronic and dance beats and even some hip-hop thrown in. The end result is an album that should be considered for 2009’s album of the year.
The album kicks off strong with an anthem entitled “Invaders Must Die.” The title track may not be the best on the album, but it certainly is good. The song finds The Prodigy going back to its roots, starting the track off with heavy, deliberate bass beats which leads into vocalist Maxim Reality exclaiming, “We are The Prodigy!” before blaring into an upbeat electronic riff. There couldn’t be a more fitting way to start the album.
The next track is the album’s lead single, “Omen.” There is no doubt that this track will find itself on the most notorious dance floors all over the world. “Omen” starts off with a more high-pitched riff than the opening track, and is much more energetic. It is rare to talk about vocals in a trance album, but the mix of Reality’s vocals shouting, “The writing’s on the wall” and the chaotic high-pitched riff gets under the skin and makes the listener want to dance, making it one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Although the album starts out well, it doesn’t hit its peak until midway through the album when The Prodigy starts to show the versatility it has acquired throughout the two decades it has been around.
“Take Me to the Hospital” introduces the first blatant electronica sounds in the album. Its high-pitched, electro-pop nature compliments the synthesized voices chanting in the background. This song is very similar to something Daft Punk would put out, but without losing the rave roots The Prodigy is known for.
“Run with the Wolves,” featuring musical genius David Grohl from the Foo Fighters, is the best track on the album. It is not traditional rave music, but that does not mean it is not a killer track. The Prodigy takes full advantage of Grohl behind the drums, by starting the track off with rambunctious drumming that sounds more like a rock ballad than a trance one. However, soon enough, the synthesized guitar and electronic riff enter the track to form a sort of electronic-rock hybrid that sounds phenomenal.
The Prodigy continues to stretch its versatility all the way up until the last track of the album with “Stand Up,” in which DJ Liam Howlett expresses his love for ’70s funk and hip-hop. This track emulates originality, and the change of pace from the thumping electronic riffs is a welcome one.
While the majority of this album is first-class trance, it is not perfect. The lowest point on this album is the track “Colours.” In a trance/techno track, it is important to vary the riff, however only to the extent that it is needed. “Colours” is too scattered and never fully catches the listener with a hook. The synthesized guitar clashes too heavily with the baselines, making the track sound more like noise rather than music.
All in all, this is an exciting return for The Prodigy. For the most part, the band takes the right risks at the right times, and simply produces a hot album. There is no doubt that “Invaders Must Die” will take over dance floors across the world.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “It’s Blitz!”
Review by Shapan Debnath
New York is a bastion for musical creativity. Whether it’s The Strokes’ polished garage rock, The National’s crooning melodrama, Animal Collective’s experimental pop or The Bravery’s dance rock, New York has so many interesting bands that it is difficult to pick the best one out. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, however, have been one of the noteworthy acts to come out of New York’s constantly blossoming music scene.
The band’s brilliant debut album, “Fever to Tell,” was released in 2003 and was critically acclaimed for its raw feel, virtuoso performance by guitarist Nick Zinner and distinctive delivery by the band’s front woman and vocalist Karen O. The band’s sophomore album, “Show Your Bones,” toned down some of the reckless noise that made “Fever to Tell” so loveable. But, the album, despite its dark undertone, was unmistakably a product of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, filled with gut-wrenching scowls and boisterous guitars. Whether or not its upcoming third album, “It’s Blitz!” would further compromise the band’s original sound, and whether it would be welcomed, remains to be seen.
“It’s Blitz!” is definitely a change of pace for the band. The majority of the songs are very electronic, which could be a hit or a miss with fans. The problem is that there isn’t much room for the band to let loose around these songs, and the tracks are mostly caught in a cycle of redundancy. “Zero” starts off jittery, but gets caught in a dull disco theme that is dressed by distorted guitars. Karen O’s voice is as seductive as it’s been in “Dragon Queen,” but she’s stuck in one mode the entire song. Zinner and drummer Brian Chase repeat their motions dryly and with little feeling.
There are also a couple of mellow songs, but their electronic backdrop leaves them ambivalent and underwhelming. “Soft Shock” starts off calming, only to build to a climax that never happens. “Skeleton” is comparable, with the exciting aspect of it being the clattering of drumsticks that are held sporadically.
But it’s not all disappointing. “Dull Life” is a throwback to the band’s glory days. This song has the swagger that the band’s fans love, and Karen O even gets a few growls in. Zinner also gets his, with guitars dancing along with Karen O’s vocals and a killer riff in between. Unfortunately, this is the only song of its nature on the record.
“Runaway” recaptures the mystique of “Show Your Bones.” Karen O’s voice is steady on the entire album, but it’s most fitting on this track. The instrumentation behind her is eerie and haunting, including a chaotic ending that’s supported by her soothing swoons. “Little Shadow” is a solid closer as Karen O remains subdued here. But unlike the other mellow tracks, the setting isn’t distracted by any electronic excess, just a wall of delicate sound.
For all the frustration on this album, it still holds well compared to most modern rock music based on the band’s natural charisma. The dilemma is the standard that the band has already set. Zinner, in particular, takes a backseat on this album. The steady grooves that permeate the electronic songs really limit his creativity. Even the most calming songs on the band’s two previous albums allowed room for Zinner to utilize his talents.
Karen O’s delivery is also notably restricted. Gone are the mind-bending shrieks and exuberant exclamations that made the live shows so glorious only to be replaced with repetition, jump hops and fist pumps.
Maybe the band has eased on its garage punk in order to make fans coordinate their dancing rather than recklessly jump up and down. But the energy that made you jump up and down uncontrollably is what made this band so incredible.