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Refresher Course: the Prodigy

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: .

Invaders Must Die marks the Prodigy’s first album with the group’s three original members since 1997’s classic Fat of the Land. Even with the success of Invaders‘ first two singles, it’s not too hard to tell that the group’s best music is well behind them. Before the forgettable Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned, and the uncharacteristic Dirtchamber Sessions mix, the group stood atop the world of electronic music as one of the most undeniably talented and unique of its day. Although they may never return to the level of popularity they once saw, or release music as invigorating as they once did, here’s a look at a few songs that exemplify why the Prodigy are a vital piece of the puzzle that is the history of pop music.

Though not entirely given credit as innovators, the Prodigy’s “Wind It Up” (album version, not the video version) offered a sound that would be heard nearly three years later with Moby’s landmark album Everything Is Wrong. The song’s blend of keyboards and blistering loops offered a balance reminiscent of a lot of early drum ‘n bass as well. 1992’s Experience is easily my favorite Prodigy album, and remains one of the key building blocks of electronic music in the 1990s.

Officially the group’s fourth single, the cartoon sound effects, reggae tangents, explosive drums loops, streamlined turntablism and happy hardcore moments of “Out of Space” gave us one of the most entertaining glimpses of how rave would sound for years to come.

Though the Chemical Brothers remix of Voodoo People is more representative of UK electronica at the time, the original mix had a grinding guitar loop that set the basis for the group’s industrial leanings with Fat of the Land. The first half of Music For The Jilted Generation is one of the best series of tracks they ever recorded, “Break & Enter,” “Their Law,” and “Speedway (Theme From Fastlane)” all being personal favorites.

On the flip side of Jilted was “Poison,” a song that came as a unique blend of everything the Prodigy had done up to that point, yet offered something entirely unique. In comparison, it was quite slower than the rest of the album, and was much more reliant on vocal loops than the Prodigy had been in the past. It still stands as an outlier, but one that doesn’t sound out of place amongst any of the group’s music up to that point.

Though it failed to even make it onto the pop-charts in the US, “Breathe” was the second single from Fat of the Land to take the number one position on the UK singles chart. In fact, the single was the group’s most successful ever, spending 22 weeks in the top 10 in the UK. Though “Firestarter” offered a sinister edge that set the pace for the album as its first single, this single’s fluid bass hovered in the background while Liam Howlett and Keith Flint shouted repetitive vague lyrics, and was far more indicative of the sound on what would become the group’s most commercially successful record.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]