Album Review: The Prodigy, ‘The Day Is My Enemy’
With their 1997 breakthrough album, The Fat of the Land, English electronic act the Prodigy helped shatter any then-lingering doubts as to whether pre-programmed music could convey raw energy on par with organic instrumentation. Eighteen years later, it's strangely comforting that, mere seconds into their sixth studio album, The Day Is My Enemy, they manage to re-assert electronic music's potential for attitude and grit.
In the time since the Prodigy dominated headlines alongside contemporaries such as the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method, et al., electronic music has, unsurprisingly, evolved into the more outwardly abrasive approach exemplified by mainstream dubstep and drum and bass exponents like Skrillex and Bassnectar.
But the aggression favored by newer artists hasn't always equated to soulfulness, which is where the Prodigy come in. Right away, as part-time Massive Attack vocalist Martina Topley-Bird sings the Cole Porter lyric from which this album derives its name, it's clear that producer/bandleader Liam Howlett is digging into his old bag of tricks to grab the audience. Topley-Bird, of course, has a knack for using her distinct voice so that she sounds startlingly ahead of the curve no matter what musical setting she's singing in. Still, the hip-grinding, ride cymbal-driven crunch of the backing track feels instantly familiar. Yet somehow, long after electronic music should have left the Prodigy in the dust, Howlett manages to stay at the head of the pack when it comes to getting sheer feeling out of his synths.
Howlett, his longtime frontmen and sidekicks MC Maxim and Keith Flint, and their various special guests plow through the album's 14 songs with an unbridled enthusiasm that would put many bands half their age to shame. More of a genuine group effort than any other title in the Prodigy catalog, Maxim and Flint appear in some form on the majority of the album's songs and bring a heaping dose of verve to the proceedings.
The Day Is My Enemy is especially successful, in its charmingly oafish way, at encouraging listeners to shut their brain off and focus on whatever activates the sweat glands. Whether it's getting pumped up for an MMA match or, say, cleaning the house, Howlett and company have created a kind of musical adrenaline bomb. That they've managed to do so well into the band's middle age is nothing short of miraculous.