04 March 2009

The Prodigy, Malakai, and The Onlookers

Three reviews… and a little bit of news.

The Prodigy: “Invaders Must Die”

“Invaders Must Die” has been hailed as the comeback album for the Prodigy, the album that would put them smack in the middle of the music nexus, as their third album, “The Fat of the Land,” did in 1997. This is a solid album, their best since 1997, perhaps the best of their career, but there is a level of vitality that is not present – but that is through no fault of the Prodigy themselves. In 1997, years of grunge, Nirvana-wannabes, “Fire Starter” was a fresh, new sound for the musical hype machine to get all excited about on an international level. Their second album, “Music for the Jilted Generation,” entered the UK Charts at #1, but “The Fat of the Land” accomplished #1 not only in the UK, but also Canada, Japan, the United States, and Australia (to name a few countries). The album, and the singles, where released at the right time to get sucked into the hype-machine that was becoming bored with the mundanity of the “standard” post-Nirvana rock bands. Prodigy offered the alternative to what was needed and they filled the void exceedingly well. But this is 2009 now, and the world of music has changed.

This is a great album, and I would argue better composed and produced than anything ever done by Prodigy in the past. The combinations of sounds are not only angry, but also sexy. The layers of sounds are not only seductive, but also sophisticated. It is a five-star from the point of view of breakbeat or electronica. But in the post-Muse world of the Continent or the formulaic musical industry of North America, I do not believe that this album will receive the reception it deserves – and I hope I am wrong. My only criticism of the album is the lyrics. Lyrically you will not be wowed with such lyrics as “I hear thunder but there’s no rain, this kind of thunder breaks window panes….” (“Thunder”), though I do not think one listens to Prodigy for philosophy or profundity. But this is a perfect album to blast at a club or drive really fast too, perhaps even to bring back some raves on country fields or abandoned warehouses. It may not be filling up the hype-machine, but “Invaders Must Die” is an album worth the investment.

Track Listing:
1. Invaders Must Die
2. Omen
3. Thunder
4. Colours
5. Take Me to the Hospital
6. Warrior’s Dance
7. Run with the Wolves
8. Omen Reprise
9. World’s on Fire
10. Prianaha
11. Stand Up

iTunes Bonus Tracks
12. Invaders Must Die – Chase and Status Remix
13. Omen – Edit
14. Track by Track Talk Thrugh

Japanese Edition
12. Black Smoke
13. Fighter Beat

You can keep up with the Prodigy on their homepage or their YouTube Channel: ProdigyChannel.

[Update: embed no longer available.] Here the link for the their video “Omen.”

Malaki: “Ugly Side of Love”

Malaki, from Bristol, consists of Gee Ealey on vocals (who has a fresh, distinctive voice) and Scott Hendy handling the music. (My understanding is that three other members join them on the stage.) Signed to Invada Records (owned by Geoff Barrow, of Portishead fame, who also was the executive producer of the album), this album combines the best elements of trip-hop and sixties rock. (It was released in the UK on 23 February 2009, though available in the US on iTunes as of 11 February 2009.) This is one of the most interesting albums I have heard in years. It is one of those albums that you like, even love, the first time you listen to, but with each subsequent listen, you realize that it is genius.

The album is neither trip-hop nor rock though; the opening track, “Warriors,” with a calm intro interrupted by sirens, breaks into a catchy rhythm, asking, “Who are the warriors?” Instantly, you are confronted with Gee’s unique voice, and trapped by a trippy melody that seems to wrap itself around the vocals. Throughout the album, there is no attempt to keep a constant wall of sound; instead each song concentrates on continuing a mood, as the album slips into more intensity – lyrical themes include violence (“Laydown Stay Down”) to the unwinding of existence (“Fading World”). What never happens is a clutter of sound, nor is there ever a battle between vocals and music as has happened with many duos (i.e., Erasure and Eurythmics). And though an oppressive wall of sound does not weigh you down, the arrangements are anything but simple! Intricate and savvy, this album displays jaw-dropping craftsmanship.

Track Listing:
1. Warriors
2. Shitkickers
3. Snake Charmer
4. Snow Flakes
5. Omega Time
6. Blackbird
7. Moonsurfin
8. Meech’s Theme
9. Only for You
10. Laydown Stay Down
11. Another Sun
12. How Long
13. Fading World
14. Simple Song

Keep up with the band via MySpace or their YouTube Channel: MalakaiBristol. Here is the link for their video for “The Battle” (renamed “Shitkickers” on the album).

The Onlookers: “The Onlookers EP”

One of the things I love about the British music scene is EPs. From Curve to Muse, so many great, groundbreaking bands started by releasing EPs. And I think that the Onlookers are on the same trajectory.

The EP reminds me of the power of early PJ Harvey. It is in your face, up front, but with no attempts of being the hardest sound you heard. Instead there is a solid pop-sensibility in these new composers, who know how to throw infectious rifts and hooks to keep their listeners interested. One of the things I love about these songs is that you never know where they are going: “Mayday” could end up ballet-esque before the beat drops, and “Reverse the Widow” starts with a catchy piano-bar-esque feel, but when the beat drops, the piano disappears and a Spanish feeling electric guitar comes into the forefront of the music. Another thing that I like about the music is that it does not sound derivate; there is no attempt being made to ride the coattails of successful bands of the festival circuit or pop-charts. Instead, the band is creating a unique niche and sound in music

(Photo by Sam Seager)

Track Listing:
1. Painstripper
2. Casino
3. Mayday
4. Reverse the Widow
5. Terraplane

Keep up with the Onlookers on MySpace and their YouTube Channel: OnlookersChannel. Hit this band up; the more fanfare, the more we will hear about them in the future.

Here is a video clip of “Painstripper.”

A little big more news…. Muse, anyone?

NME has posted some information on the new Muse album, pointing to the possibility that there will be a late summer release, as they expect to be touring by the autumn. Bellamy describes the album as a “Classic FM” sound, alluding to the rumor of orchestrated music – as they confirmed a collaboration with an orchestra!