XL Recordings - 2004 - 58 minutes

Grrrr. Liam Howlett is really angry about something. Perhaps the heating bill of his stately home is outrageous. Maybe his popstar girlfriend's spending habits are causing him stress. Or it could be that the derisory response to 'Baby's Got A Temper', The Prodigy's comeback single, stung him to the quick.

To be fair to the Essex beatmaster, he noticed the underwhelming reaction to the single and immediately trashed all the work he'd done on the new album, preferring to start from scratch.

Instead we are treated to 'Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned'. As the years roll past, The Prodigy are getting on a bit, and nobody expects their fourth album to have the impact of the titanic 'Music For The Jilted Generation', or their incendiary debut. After being the most impressive product of the Essex hardcore boom of the early Nineties, The Prodigy decided that the future was in out-rocking the rockers, becoming a legendary live act in the process. Since then, all has gone quiet, with the exception of an excellent mix album, 'The Dirtchamber Sessions', which was a strong advertisement for the Prodigy's technomeetsrapmeetsrock sensibility.

Howlett's production skills are still in evidence on 'Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned', but new ideas are on the thin side. This album mines the same seam as the last one, with little evidence that garage, grime, glitch'n'click or the bootlegging scenes ever happened.

Not that it doesn't occasionally hit the spot. The distorted screams and pounding percussion of 'Spitfire' sound great at loud volume. The vocals confirm any suspicions about Howlett's state of mind. "They call me spit fire, cause you know that I can," we know you're pissed off Liam - share it with the group. There are a couple of other standout tracks - the Eastern-tinged epic buildup of 'Medusa's Path' is particularly strong.

The less said about the celebrity guest vocalists the better, with the honourable exception of Kool Keith, who delivers his typically inspired lyrical madness.

It's a long way from the flickering fields off the M25 where The Prodigy were born, maybe its time for Liam Howlett to turn his undoubted talents to a more productive project. Any chance of another mix album?

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Spitfire - Girls - Memphis Belle - Get Up Get Off - Hotride - Wake-up Call - Action Radar - Medusa's Path - Phoenix - You'll Be Under My Wheels - The Way It Is - Shoot Down