The city at night talks through drones and chaos. The hidden city that lives in the shadows of the anaesthetized and over-stylized urban landscape. The night time heart that pounds to the rush of different drums: a subverted militaristic snare, a distorted break, a glitched dub attack, a middle eastern refrain, a cacophony of in-car dissonance, a symphony of random noise soundtracking life at the edge of the night. Where humanity lurks in darkened corners, hoods up, eyes down and communicating through clandestine gestures. Where the urban fox hunts in the darkness of the city’s suffocating ghost life, ransacking the daytime waste, taking what it wants – unafraid, unchallenged, untethered, untouchable… Like The Prodigy.
Welcome to The Day is My Enemy, an album that takes you on a journey through the unchartered underbelly of urban nightlife where anger is an ever-present energy lurking just beneath the surface of an edgy calm.
“I can’t tell you why this record came out so angry, I think its just inbuilt in me, ” says Liam Howlett “It’s more about what I like music to do. I’ve always seen music I like as a form of attack. That’s what I use music for, it’s an attack. I didn’t plan this album to sound violent, it’s just the sound that came out of the studio , a kind of build up over the last 4 years . ‘Anger is an energy’, that’s a lyric which always resonated with me. The tension is buried deep in the music right from the first drop. It’s all about the sound having that sense of danger. That’s what The Prodigy sound is about.”
By rights Liam Howlett, Keef Flint and Maxim shouldn’t be angry at all. For the last 25 years or so The Prodigy has cut a solitary path through the noise-scapes of electronic dance music. They’ve dropped five epoch defining studio albums, including 2009’s world dominating Invaders Must Die, and delivered unforgettable live performances that have taken electronic beats into unchartered territories. Throughout this time they’ve remained resolutely focused on their own vision, inspiring legions of artists along the way. No one would blame them then if they cashed in on their legend and produced an album of USA-friendly EDM mainstream beats like a well-earned pension plan. Isn’t that what bands are supposed to so by this stage in their careers?
Anyone expecting an EDM sell-out for album number six obviously doesn’t understand The Prodigy’s oppositional ideology. The Day is My Enemy finds the band pushing at the edges of expectation with the unbridled fervor of a bunch of teenage car thieves hot wiring the fastest motor they can find.
“The Prodigy right, we’re proud of our roots and we can not be lumped in with the fuckin’ formula dance music by numbers crew,” Liam exclaims. “They’re the fuckin’ jokers that stop this music getting taken seriously. Skits on Saturday night live takin’ the piss? That’s where it’s ended up… That’s not what electronic music is about. The lazy DJ’s, they have to be exposed. I’ve gone out of my way on this album to not have any of those things that people attach to dance music now… there’s no fucking typical snare builds or that bollocks.”
Little surprise then that album cut ‘Ibiza’, featuring Jason from Sleaford Mods, isn’t exactly a celebration of the EDM clubs of the white island, but a sneering indictment (with a punch and a wink) at the sanitized superstar DJs, the shallow thrill seekers and the beered up jock-house hipsters (‘what’s he fuckin’ doing?’). Clocking in at only 2 minutes and 46 seconds it’s not only The Prodigy’s shortest tune ever, but is also as fine a slab of 21st century punk rock as you’re likely to hear.
“Don’t get confused” Liam adds, “It’s not so much an attack on the place but the superstar DJ’s who turn up in Lear jets with a premixed set on a USB stick , yeah what the fuck ?, this tune ‘ibiza’ is for them, its an anti anthem.”
Let’s be clear then, The Day is My Enemy ain’t no mainstream-sucking joyride. It’s The Prodigy turned up to 11, lights tuned low and ram-raiding the back doors of popular culture.
And it’s probably the most British sounding album you’ll hear this year. Not British in the flag waving jingoistic sense, but in a way that understands that the nighttime spaces of urban Britain are a multi-hued cacophony of cultures. If Invaders Must Die was the sound of the rusted urban sprawl decaying like an open wound in the British countryside, then The Day is My Enemy is about the angry humanity existing in the decay of the urban nightmare.
“I’m coming out firing on this record.”
The Day is My Enemy erupts with a statement of intent. Kicking off with a title track that finds Liam building a ferocious electronic meltdown over militaristic live beats supplied by renegade drummers The Top Secret Drum Corps from Basel, Switzerland. Less Edinburgh tattoo than fully inked up skin this opening salvo feels like The Prodigy marching into a war on everything they stand in opposition to. As someone else once put it, a war with all of the poseurs and the frauds. Before you know what’s hit you the battleground is scorched by ‘Nasty’ with Keef Flint at his snarling best, until ‘Rebel Radio’ finds Maxim in similarly violent mood firing melodies like Babylonian Excotet missiles.
“Keef and Maxim’s vocals and lyrics are fukin’ great on this album,” Says Liam “They’ve never sounded better. This is very much a band album you know. The last album was about us getting back together and vibing off the positivity of that. So it came out sounding uplifting. But this one is about us really listening to each other and from playing together as a live band… yeah, it’s a violent sounding album, but that’s because that’s what we’re like as a band when we come together . ”
Not that The Day is my Enemy doesn’t have its moments of uplifting old skool magic. Take ‘Wild Frontier’ with its sense of psychotic joy, or ‘Medicine’, a block party hip hop slam dunk which features Maxim in full flow with YT over Arabic refrains (‘a spoonful of sugar just to sweeten the taste, just to keep you in your place’). And then there’s the free party monster ‘Rhythm Bomb’ which finds Liam teaming up with Flux Pavilion to subvert the groove of a 1980’s dance classic , ‘Make My Body Rock’ by Jomanda. The essence of that old skool influence is best summed up on the instrumental ‘Destroy’, which retains an urgency and an edge… party tunes maybe, but with that vital attack.
With many of the album’s ideas sketched out on a laptop after gigs and after after-parties (because “I seem to write more when the mind is warped”), The Day is My Enemy perfectly captures the essence of The Prodigy live – warts and all. “I like to play stuff live on analogue rather than programme it all. I’m sick to death of looking at a computer screen, that was never me. Who cares if there’s a mistake or whatever, it gives the music a more organic loose feel.” Liam explains.
This live edge runs like searing heat through cuts like the juggernaut onslaught of ‘Get Your Fight On’, the album closing body blow of ‘Wall of Death’ (“I wanted to finish the album with a track that terrorizes people!”), or ‘Roadblox’ which was built from a live remix of old tune ‘Spitfire’. Only one of the new tunes explored live at recent shows has made the final cut, the canines bared ‘Rok-weiler’.
“Fans might be surprised that live favorites like ‘Jet Fighter’ aren’t on the album but they weren’t good enough in the end. I really got into a zone when we started putting the album together and the tracks we played live just weren’t as good as the new ones being written.”
That Liam found himself mining such a creative vein in the process of producing this album that he was able to throw out tracks that lesser mortals would sell their preset souls to be able to write is testament to the true strength of The Day is My Enemy. This is made abundantly clear on the album’s most cinematic tracks ‘Beyond the Deathray’ and ‘Invisible Sun’, which offer scores to an industrial urban darkness – like ‘Alien’ in London.
The Day is My Enemy then is the sound of the hidden city that talks through drones and chaos and lives in the shadows of the anaesthetized and over-stylized urban landscape.
It’s The Prodigy coming out firing… unafraid, unchallenged, untethered, untouchable… Like the urban fox.