And it's clear that Howlett not only hasn't changed a bit—something anyone who heard 2004's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned already knows—but he's also having more audible fun than he's had in a dozen years. Meaning, of course, more fun than he's had since...the album before last. Hell, we could say a whole fifteen years, since Invaders has a more gleeful kick to it than 1997's The Fat of the Land, though nothing on it is likely to wind up as iconic as that album's hits. It's not the Prodigy's time that way—though I can't help but think of this album as a blaring prole parallel to Portishead's Third.
Some of that is nostalgia, sure, though keep in mind I neither Portishead nor the Prodigy were that far up my agenda even in '97. But I think Invaders bears a similar relationship to the Prodigy's earlier work as Third does to Portishead: the same basic idea, updated with utter canniness. In this case, what it means is more great, stupid riffs. On "Stand Up," the closing number, it sounds like Howlett is pinching a marching band fanfare from a '60s psychedelic record. And he's gotten ravey again, thank heavens: the breakbeats of "Omen" plow like the big beat of old instead of colliding a la early jungle, but there's no mistaking which side of the breakbeat line-in-the-sand that meathead-on-E neon-glow riff, and low end to match, belongs. Even better, "Warrior's Dance" throws in a shrieking diva vocal and r-r-r-rolls the beats. Even if you have something against the retrograde, it's hard to argue when it's done this gleefully.