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The Prodigy 

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (Maverick/XL)

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The Prodigy came of age when big pants and even bigger beats reigned supreme in England, but became known to most Americans in 1997 with the sadistic metal twang of "Firestarter." Outgunned, their first proper studio disc since that time and first without spiky-haired barker Keith Flint, hasn't moved much beyond the electroshocked rock that brought them that crossover success.

Most of Outgunned is dated grimetronica, with gunmetal-gray riffs clunking over rhythms shredded with tired samples and overplayed arena-techno clichés. Particularly loathsome is "Hot Ride," a horrendous attempt at hard rock featuring a little girl-gone-satanic reading of the Fifth Dimension's "Up, Up and Away" by Juliette Lewis. The highlights are few and far between: There's "Girls," with its maniacal synth squiggles, '80s electro breaks, and rap breakdowns; Liam Gallagher's slurring sleazefest "Shoot Down"; and Twista's agile vocal tumbling on "Get Up Get Off." What stands out is how devoid of vibrancy or new ideas it all is.

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