When you’ve been at the forefront of the British dance/drum & bass scene for as long as The Prodigy have, you can afford to let your hair down and cut loose from time to time. On their latest album No Tourists they do exactly that. So long as you don’t mind a bit of musical carnage and the occasional cringey throwback, this could pleasantly surprise you. It won’t win album of the year awards, it is too much of a gimmick for that; but despite its flaws, it’s pretty damn fun.
My relationship with the big beat genre of hardcore dance music has been somewhat sparse throughout my life, but for whatever reason I find myself going back to one specific group. The Prodigy are the ultimate trailblazers of a genre that embraces havoc and energy in the form of explosive drum beats and wild synthesisers, and they hail from… Essex? Offering some of the most innovative music of the 90s and raising hell throughout their heyday, I vividly remember feeling crushed and devastated listening to their previous album, 2015’s The Day Is My Enemy. It just felt like a bunch of middle aged dads trying to reignite happy hardcore.
Well, somehow, I have found myself kind of enjoying this new album of theirs? It has a spark to it, a classic Prodigy sound while also endeavouring to tackle new hurdles in the progressing genre. It is far from great let me tell you that for certain. The beats often sound gimmicky in today’s musical sphere and the lack of catchy hooks can hold it back at times; but for sheer abrasive action it is a solid release. One major criticism is Boom Boom Tap, oh my lord that song is bad; like really bad. I also feel that songs drag too long on the odd occasion, they could do with perhaps a switch-up to be kept lively and interesting.
I knew straight away what was going to be my favourite track on this album: track five, Fight Fire With Fire featuring New Jersey based aggressive hip-hop duo Ho99o9. The pair work perfectly on the manic beat given what can be heard from their own content and the end result is a match made in heaven. The opening track Need Some1 is a boom-blast start to the album and easily one of the strongest cuts on the whole project, while We Live Forever boasts a slick build and some vintage Prodigy wobbles in the beat. What stood out more than anything for me with this album was that they weren’t producing loud beats for the sake of being loud, it felt structured and well-refined unlike their previous album; this appears far more focused. Well, as focused as this kind of unbridled chaos can be, at least.
I spent this entire review trying to refrain from referencing Peep Show but I’m afraid I can no longer resist. The Big Beat Manifesto states that “big beats are the best” and The Prodigy do that better than most, even to this day. It is hard to look past the cliched instrumentals and the obvious homage to what is now seen as a bit of a meme of a genre, especially given that it influenced dubstep, but that cannot be stopped. It is wonderfully refreshing to see Liam Howlett continuing to find new inspiration for this chaotic group and while this is miles away from their strongest releases, it is a vast improvement on The Day Is My Enemy and an above-par album from a group that could’ve been written off as finished.