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The Prodigy - No Tourists Music Album Reviews

On their seventh studio album, the UK rave veterans help themselves liberally to sounds and ideas from their back catalog while punching up the production to ultra-modern standards.

It’s tempting to call the Prodigy the Rolling Stones of rave. Both bands formed in the unfashionable home counties around London. Both took Black American music, sugared it up, and flogged it back to the States. And both stopped innovating 15 years into their careers, in favor of repackaging classic sounds into stadium-friendly bundles. That makes No Tourists, the Prodigy’s seventh studio album, their Steel Wheels or Voodoo Lounge: a permissible indulgence that’s most satisfying when it reminds you of their earlier work. Prodigy leader Liam Howlett almost admitted to this nostalgic tinge when he explained in the run-up to the release that No Tourists “draws on the best elements of the band.”

He wasn’t kidding. Listening to No Tourists sometimes feels like a game of sonic whack-a-mole as you try to work out where, in the Prodigy’s long career, you’ve heard that sound before. There’s a lengthy YouTube thread under the video for “Light Up the Sky” that tries to trace elements of the song back through the Prodigy catalogue, calling on “Breathe,” “Their Law,” “Voodoo People,” and “The Day Is My Enemy” in the process, while “We Live Forever” sees Howlett sample Ultramagnetic MC’s for at least the fourth time in the Prodigy’s history.

Even when specific noises are more original, a comforting air of familiarity hangs over the album. Since rejuvenating their sound with an injection of Pendulum’s metallic drum ‘n’ bass rush on 2004’s Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, the Prodigy have been in happy stasis, immune to the musical world outside them. And so it proves here: the lopsided “Amen” break on “Resonate” is the only sign of the band trying anything different and even that doesn’t last much longer than the song’s first two minutes. Elsewhere, the Prodigy spew up their usual mixture of elephantine drum sounds, snarling vocals, and heavy-metal synth riffs, wrapped up in the kind of rave production rush that feels like a garish fairground ride on a cold November night.

For all that, Howlett has denied that the new album is retro, and you can kind of see his point. The production is so incredibly well crafted—loud and compressed like an aural battering ram—that it leaves the band’s older rave records sounding weedy in comparison. But if No Tourists is effective—those Eastern European festivals will be shook—they’re also having fun with it. The Prodigy have long been distinguished by their sugar-rush hooks, and No Tourists has some of their strongest, from the nagging vocal sample on “Need Some1” to the turbo synth line on “Timebomb Zone.”

Yet this fun might have ended up somewhat more profound if the Prodigy had pushed the boat out farther. In the past some of the band’s more captivating moments have come when they welcomed unexpected guests (Martina Topley-Bird on 2015’s “The Day Is My Enemy,” Dave Grohl on 2009’s “Run With the Wolves”) but the invitees on No Tourists are too close for comfort. Industrial hip-hop group Ho99o9 don’t lend anything to "Fight Fire With Fire” that The Prodigy themselves couldn’t have cooked up, while English singer-songwriter Barns Courtney merely waters down Keith Flint’s growl—itself a diluted version of John Lydon’s—on “Give Me a Signal.”

Ultimately, No Tourists is the sound of a once-inflammatory band happily lodged in its comfort zone, where virtuoso water treading meets industrial-strength customer satisfaction. It’s rave as family entertainment: good, wholesome fun with just a whiff of cartoon danger, the contented din of a bunch of punks who grew up, got rich, and—like Mick Jagger before them—realized that maybe you can get some satisfaction when your bank balance demands it.

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