Wednesday, June 01, 2011
PRODIGY World's On Fire (Live 2010)
After twenty years, The Prodge (or whatever you want to call them) – break cover with their first live record. The concept of an electronic band – all banks of sequencers, keyboards, and presets – releasing “live” material – is seen by some, the Luddities, as an oxymoron. Yet as this, and Underworld’s “Everything Everything” prove, electronics are just a means of achieving an idea. A guitar is electric. A synthesiser is a machine. These are the ways of making our ears hear what the band want us to hear. Releasing energy.
“World’s On Fire”, the first – and probably only – Prodigy live release – captures the band at both a peak, and a trough. With a DVD and CD featuring the band recorded live at a huge open air show in the cultural wasteland that is Milton Keynes. The sound of the live show is a beefy, aggressive sprawl, with a metric ton of sound. The mostly slender electronics, launched by the bands one-man musician Liam Howlett, reveals The Prodigy, in all practical terms to be a solo act, fronted by two shouting goons in stupid outfits, and augmented by a drummer and guitarist. Guitarist Rob Halliday, a jobbing, and promiscuous player also from Marilyn Manson, The Mission, Gary Numan, and Curve, leaps all over the stage furiously, adding riffs and fury, but ultimately not much more than that. Whilst Howlett presses “play” and lets his songs go apeshit crazy, the drummer meanwhile bashes things with enthusiastic, if not exactly subtle, aplomb. Throw into the mix the two frontmen (the names of whom escape me), as some sort of ringleader/MC’s – originally frankly pointless dancers to spruce up the live show – and you have what is, in essence, a solo act filled out by distractions.
This isn’t to say it’s a bad thing : on this set, the live meat works well to beef up the sound so it isn’t a bunch of sounds triggered from a massive bank of synthesisers, with angry riffola galore and frantic drums punctuated by the shouts and screams of inarticulate stagerage from Keef and The Other One. On CD it sounds like some kind of post-Pistols rock/rave primal howl closer to Ministry’s late 80’s/early 90’s gonzo drug fullled madness than anything as simple as a rave band. Added to this, the visual carnage on the DVD makes the experience both frustrating and exhilarating. Shots – mostly quick cut, 1 second glimpses, are thrown at the viewer with frightening frequency, focusing on the stage, and the people on it, alongside frequent cutaways to Moshcams in the pit, and occasionally, long, slow pans across 40,000 people going bonkers in a boiling hot field somewhere in a dull commuter town in central England. It’s strangely compact, missing the enormity of the event – and therefore, also, the stifling dullness of the town of Milton Keynes and the appallingly pedestrian nature of the Milton Keynes Bowl itself. But also there’s no scope : the experience captured on the screen is a bunch of guys jumping up and down on a bright stage making a racket, and a bunch of guys and girls jumping up and down in a field looking at a bright stage making a racket. It’s the nearest thing to being there. Apart from being there. Therefore, it probably smells better.
In all, it’s a short, exhausting 70 minutes of being pummelled by inarticulate, angry hedonism. The rage, the fury, the release, are all there – but there’s no direction, no purpose to the flailing. Whereas better, wiser bands, Joy Division, Sex Pistols, channelled this rage and explained why, The Prodigy are emotional children, and whilst this is a grand sonic construction, at the end, there’s a hollow ring. What does it all mean? Glorious sound and fury signifying nothing.