Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned

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Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
Studio album by The Prodigy
Released 11 August 2004 (Japan)
23 August 2004 (UK)
15 September 2004 (US)
Recorded September 1998 – April 2004
Genre Big beat,[1] alternative rock, electronica, breakbeat,[2] rave
Length 57:57
Label XL, Maverick, Warner Bros. (US), Sony (Japan)
Producer Liam Howlett
The Prodigy chronology
The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One
(1999)
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
(2004)
Their Law: The Singles 1990–2005
(2005)
Singles from Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
  1. "Girls"
    Released: 30 August 2004
  2. "Hotride"
    Released: 1 November 2004
  3. "Spitfire"
    Released: 4 April 2005

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is the fourth studio album by British electronic dance music group The Prodigy. The album was released in the United Kingdom on 23 August 2004 under XL Recordings, and in North America on 15 September 2004 by Mute Records and Maverick Records. It was the last album from the band to be distributed under the labels. Recorded almost entirely using the Propellerhead Reason program, with the mastering being done on Pro Tools, the album contrasts with their previous releases, and features a larger use of vocals than the group's third album, The Fat of the Land (1997). The album title is a play on the name of the Walter Mosely novel Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. It was produced entirely by Liam Howlett. Keith Flint's and Keeti Palmer's (Maxim Reality's) vocals do not appear in this album. By this stage Leeroy Thornhill had left the group.

Despite achieving commercial success upon release, the album is among the band's lowest-sellers. Record labels who distributed Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned dropped The Prodigy after the release of Their Law: The Singles 1990–2005 one year later. The album's singles, with the exception of "Girls", failed to reach the Top 40, and the album received mixed reviews upon debut; some critics praising it, many others criticising it for being "a failed departure from the band's previous albums".[citation needed]

Background[edit]

In 1996, The Prodigy rose to fame outside their native UK with "Firestarter", the lead single from The Fat of the Land, which was released in 1997 and topped several charts, including the Billboard 200.[3] The band ended the tour that promoted the album, taking a break from touring and recording and writing material for their fourth studio album. To coincide with the departure of Leeroy Thornhill during the period, the band shut down their official website for over two years, with its home page replaced with a logo of the band and the text "We will be back" set against a black background, leading to rumours that the band went on hiatus. The website was relaunched prior to releasing a new single in 2002.

The single released in that year, and one of the songs intended to be featured on the album was "Baby's Got a Temper". Generating controversy upon release for the lyrics by Keith Flint, which heavily focused on the misuse of the drug rohypnol, the song was met with mostly negative reviews from critics. Liam Howlett has since disowned the song.[4] Despite the apparently low popularity, the song reached the Top 5 position of the Canadian Singles Chart and UK Singles Chart.[5][6] The single was intended to be released as a single from the then-upcoming album. Eventually, the group went through another direction, and the plan to include the song on the album was cancelled. Because the single was a non-album single, in 2008, the band's official website's discography classified it as an EP.[7]

Recording[edit]

Pre-production was done at Mews Recording Studios, while recording began on September 1998 and ended on April 2004. Unlike their predecessors, which featured contributions from the entire band, with Keith Flint only appearing on the group's third album at the time, Liam Howlett recorded the album mostly by himself in similar vein to Experience (1992), using the Propellerhead Reason program installed in his Macintosh laptop. Moet Mastered, Damian Taylor, and Emily Lazar mastered the album via Pro Tools on the same computer.[8]

Although the production process started in 1998, Howlett disliked the sound of the new album he initially took a break in 2000, to "go out with my mates and get drunk." He returned to Essex in 2001 to resume work on the record, but after 6 songs were written, he hired producer Neil McLellan to the frustration of Howlett himself, moving to a house after four months and then returning to the original studio:

My studio is crammed with equipment, but I ended up feeling I was being overcome by it all—it was just too much. I used to go to bed every night thinking 'Tomorrow, I'm going to write the tune, tomorrow is going to be the day,' but nothing ever happened. Eventually Neil Maclellan pointed out that we'd been in the studio for four months without having anything to show for it. [...] Nat [of All Saints] was doing her own record so we weren't spending a lot of time together [upon moving to the house she purchased], but [amidst this situation] there were always dogs to stroke and videos to watch and gardens to walk round, so I didn't ever feel like I was at work—I was too laid-back. [...] Neil [Maclellan] said we had to get out, get back to London. I knew I physically couldn't sit in my room any more, and for the first time in my life I listened to someone else and realised I actually needed help. It wasn't [the decision of] that I needed help with the writing, just that I needed help finding the right headspace to get into the right frame of mind. I wanted to write a good album—[which was the] one I was happy with—but to do that I knew I'd have to jerk myself out of situation I was in and start again.[9]

Howlett purchased and brought a laptop, a copy of the Reason program, and selected a "Thermionic Culture Phoenix valve compressor and Culture Vulture distortion unit, a Korg Micro Keyboard, a Manley Laboratories valve EQ and a 1970's Korg MS20 analogue keyboard." He would write the songs in "his bed," and then create them using those equipment. With this move, he is able to shift the direction of the album to that of dance punk. After the recording was finished, Taylor, Mastered and Lazar mixed the album with Pro Tools, completing development on the album.[9]

Of the three members of The Prodigy, only Howlett is present on the album musically. Actress Juliette Lewis, Oasis frontmen Liam and Noel Gallagher, Kool Keith of the Ultramagnetic MCs, who was previously featured in "Diesel Power", American rapper Twista, Shahin Badar, American hip hop musician Princess Superstar, and The Magnificent Ping Pong Bitches were guest musicians on the album. "This album is about reminding people what The Prodigy was always about—the beats and the music," Howlett wrote in a blog of a fansite after finishing the album. He also notes that his intention was to use vocals mostly as an extension of the sound rather than the main focal point, as was the case in The Fat of the Land.[10]

Composition[edit]

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is a shift in style that differs from previous releases. Although it was recorded heavily using Propellerhead Reason, the album features contributions from various musicians.

The album opens with "Spitfire", named after and a tribute to the World War II plane of the same name. The song, which featured Juliette Lewis on backing vocals,[11] was featured in the soundtrack to the 2005 horror film House of Wax.[12] "Girls" begins with a sample from "Style of the Street" by Broken Glass. When the beats and bass enter, its structure changes from that of an industrial hip hop song to excessive distortion and noise. The vocal samples used in this track are from D. Train song "You're the One for Me".[13] "Memphis Bells" segues from "Girls", and includes Princess Superstar on vocals.[8]

Other tracks include elements unusual for a song from The Prodigy. "Get Up Get Off" features Twista (who co-wrote the song) on lead vocals. "Hotride" (in which its music video was rejected by Howlett after completion) interpolates elements from "Up Up and Away", while "Wake Up Call" was about waking up in the morning and getting "back on tour". "Action Radar"'s beat was influenced by early hip hop music, but Howlett does not mention this, even in the booklet.[citation needed]

"Medusa's Path" was inspired by "[Damian] Taylor's parents'" trip to Iran. This song is a 6-minute long instrumental that shares elements from "Elahaye Naz", and samples a remix of a Jaydee song titled "Plastic Dreams". What Howlett called an "analogue shit" was the synthesizer that was used for "Phoenix". When "Medusa's Path" segues to this track, the synthesizer enters. The song is accompanied by a repeating sample of the Shocking Blue song "Love Buzz". Following the track is "You'll Be Under My Wheels", the second time Kool Keith collaborated with the band, though his only lyrics are "I rock, I roll." "You'll Be Under My Wheels" would be later used for the soundtrack to the 2005 racing video game Need for Speed: Most Wanted. "The Way It Is", largely a re-creation of Michael Jackson's 1983 single "Thriller", follows, while the album's final track, "Shoot Down", includes a sample from "My World Fell Down", a song performed by Sagittarius.[8] This sample was earlier used in unreleased live track "Trigger".[citation needed]

Promotion[edit]

"Girls" was released on 30 August 2004 as the lead single from Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, entering the charts at No. 19.[14] "Hotride", released 1 November 2004 in the United Kingdom, was not eligible to enter the UK charts as the CD was released in extended play format with 3 additional 'b-sides', and so did not conform to chart regulations. "Spitfire" was finally released on 4 April 2005 as the album's third and final single. "Memphis Bells", released on 28 June 2004, was exclusively available online as a digital download via a website promoting the album, in a limited edition of 5,000 copies. Each copy was a combination of customer-chosen instrumental, rhythmic, and melodic options, of which 39,600[15] choices were available. Five mixes were sold in three file formats, WAV, two audio mixes in MP3, and a 5.1 DTS surround sound mix and all were free of digital rights management. The experiment was a success, with all copies being sold out in over 36 hours, despite server problems from the demand.[citation needed]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (53/100)[16]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[13]
Entertainment Weekly (B−)[17]
Drowned in Sound (8/10)[11]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[18]
Kludge (6/10)[19]
Mojo 3/5 stars[20]
NME (6/10)[21]
The Observer 4/5 stars[22]
Pitchfork Media (3.9/10)[23]
PlayLouder 3/5 stars[24]
PopMatters (neutral)[25]
Q 2/5 stars[26]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[27]

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned debuted at the top spot on the UK album charts in its first week,[28] and performed well in Australia, reaching the Top 5 spot of the ARIA Album Chart.[29] However, with three singles, the album did not have any major hits worldwide. A limited edition of 5,000 copies of the album was released, sporting a black, inverted cover variant and no other extras.[citation needed] In Japan and the United States, the album contained a reworked version of Girls, entitled "More Girls" which features Maxim Reality on vocals. It was promoted by a promotional double A-sided 12' vinyl "Girls/Memphis Bells", released in very limited numbers on 21 June 2004, as well as a tour that lasted over 2 years.[citation needed]

However, it wasn't nearly as successful as The Fat of the Land. The album was released to mixed reviews, despite being commercially successful. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 53, based on 23 reviews.[30] Drowned in Sound, who rated the album "8/10," described the album's overall sound as, "while Howlett may show his age occasionally throughout Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, minus the circus-freak sideshow, all that remains is some very slightly contemporary dance music to get down to."[11] The Observer also liked the album, but PopMatters reviewed the album neutrally. In contrast, Pitchfork Media, as well as Rolling Stone, Q, The Guardian, Allmusic, and several others were more critical, stating that the album sounded like an underdeveloped recording, with Q's review commenting the album was too unlikely.[26] In February 2012, it was included on the NME list of the "Top 100 Albums You've Never Heard".[31]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Liam Howlett, except where noted.. 

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Spitfire"     5:07
2. "Girls"     4:06
3. "Memphis Bells"   Howlett/Neil Maclellan 4:28
4. "Get Up Get Off"     4:19
5. "Hotride"     4:35
6. "Wake Up Call"     4:55
7. "Action Radar"     5:32
8. "Medusa's Path"   Howlett/Maclellan 6:10
9. "Phoenix"     4:38
10. "You'll Be Under My Wheels"   Howlett/Maclellan 3:56
11. "The Way It Is"     5:45
12. "Shoot Down (featuring Liam Gallagher)"   Howlett/Maclellan 4:28

Members[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2004) Peak
position
UK Albums Chart[28] 1
US Billboard 200[3] 62
Australia[29] 5
Austria[33] 8
Japan[34] 6
New Zealand[35] 20
Norway[36] 5
Sweden[37] 34
Poland[38] 12

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Prodigy-Always-Outnumbered-Never-Outgunned/master/11807
  2. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Prodigy-Always-Outnumbered-Never-Outgunned/master/11807
  3. ^ a b The Prodigy > Charts & Awards at AllMusic. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  4. ^ Nekozine online interview on 17 December 2003 by Andrea Schnepf with Liam Howlett, published 7 January 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2007.
  5. ^ "The Prodigy – Baby's Got A Temper". Chart Stats. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 
  6. ^ The Prodigy > Singles Charts at AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  7. ^ EPs on 11 March 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
  8. ^ a b c Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned liner notes and credits
  9. ^ a b Sillitoe, Sue. Liam Howlett: Recording Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. Sound on Sound (October 2004). Retrieved 03–21–2011.
  10. ^ neko. "Statement by Liam Howlett about the new album". Nekozine.co.uk. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c Anonymous, Adam (25 August 2004). "Drowned in Sound 2004". Drownedinsound.com. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  12. ^ House of Wax soundtrack (Varese Sarabande; 3 May 2005).
  13. ^ a b Jeffries, David. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned at AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  14. ^ "The Prodigy – Girls". Chart Stats. Retrieved 11 November 2010. 
  15. ^ There were 660,000 choices total, but 39,600 were picked.
  16. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/music/always-outnumbered-never-outgunned
  17. ^ 14 Aug 2004, p.47
  18. ^ Dave Simpson (20 August 2004). "The Guardian 2004". London: Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  19. ^ Kludge 2004[dead link]
  20. ^ Mojo: September 2004, p.92
  21. ^ "NME 2004". Nme.com. 17 September 2004. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "The Observer 2004". London: Observer.guardian.co.uk. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  23. ^ ["Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. 25 August 2004. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  24. ^ "PlayLouder 2004". Playlouder.com. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  25. ^ O'Neil, Tim. "PopMatters 2004". Popmatters.com. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  26. ^ a b Q: September 2004, p.110
  27. ^ 30 Sep 2004, p.190
  28. ^ a b "UK Top 40 Hit Database". everyHit.com. Retrieved 8 March 2008.  Note: User must define search parameters as "Prodigy"
  29. ^ a b "australian-charts.com – The Prodigy". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  30. ^ "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic.com. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  31. ^ NME February 2012 issue
  32. ^ only CD released from Sony Music Entertainment Japan
  33. ^ "The Prodigy – Albums". Archived from the original on 15 February 2008. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  34. ^ "Release : The Prodigy". oricon.co.jp. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  35. ^ "The Prodigy New Zealand Charting". Charts.org.nz. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  36. ^ "norwegiancharts.com – The Prodigy". nowegiancharts.com. Retrieved 4 December 2007. 
  37. ^ "swedishcharts.com – The Prodigy". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 5 August 2008. 
  38. ^ "Oficjalna lista sprzedaży". olis.onyx.pl. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2008. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Songs About Jane by Maroon 5
UK number one album
4 September 2004 – 10 September 2004
Succeeded by
The Libertines by The Libertines