Musical Convention: Shattered

August 16, 2022
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Luckily, my parents were the type to embrace difference, and I was allowed to purchase Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter as one of my first-ever CDs at the age of eight.

While some kids were scarred by Keith Flint’s mohawk, tattoo-wielding, screaming punk nightmare in the music video for ‘Firestarter’, I was ready to embrace Flint’s solo hysteria.

Seeing the Prodigy frontman unleash hell and fury in his solo mosh pit in an abandoned tube station was one of my formative memories of music. From that day on, the Prodigy was a band I have never forgotten.

After playing ‘Firestarter’ to death, I later bought, The Fat of the Land, the Prodigy’s 1997 album. At the time, I couldn’t get enough of the relentless 90-minutes of punk-electronic mash-up that served as the ultimate release for a kid with too much energy.

But it wasn’t until the 90s ended until my appreciation of the Prodigy’s musical and cultural legacy in the Fat of the Land grew.

As Brit-Pop, girl bands and boy bands died out in the new Millenium, the Fat of the Land continued to storm through British music like a concord on steroids.

The opening two tracks of The Fat of the Land are possibly the most iconic Prodigy songs to hit the mainstream market, ‘Smack my B**** Up’ and ‘Breathe’. Both reached number one in the UK charts for several weeks.

‘Smack My B**** Up’ raises the curtains on the Fat of the Land at lightning speed. It is an electronic song that arguably has one of the greatest-ever build-ups in the genre, compiled with well-known yet controversial vocals that have divided opinion for decades. ‘Breathe’ is the second track and it launches into a deep guitar solo before blending seamlessly with breakbeat drums and typically confrontational lyrics – ‘Breathe the pressure, don’t play my game or I’ll test ya.”

Both songs epitomise the Prodigy’s musical style. A blend of heavy rock, punk and 1990s underground electronic music, with the shock factor coming from the jaw-dropping lyrics. The combination wouldn’t work on paper, but ‘Smack My B**** Up’ and ‘Breathe’ show how the Prodigy crafted the combination.

The tracks also showcase the Prodigy’s cultural style as punk and rave cultures combine into a mega carefree philosophy. This platform gives the band an expressive attitude without boundaries or restraint.

As the album spins along, you wait for the rest bite to come, the chance to grab a beer and have a cigarette, but it never arrives.

Heavy-hitting hip-hop is up next with Diesel Power, while Funky S*** showcases the Prodigy’s incredible use of electronic samples and sound effects to somehow make a Knight Rider-Esque mash-up, complete with horns and Beastie Boy lyrics. Shock horror, the Beastie Boys weren’t too pleased the Prodigy sampled their original track. How many cares were given by the Prodigy? Absolutely none.

Serial Thrilla then gives Flint another lyric spitting platform as he launches into his anti-establishment rhetoric with undertones of mania thrown in for good measure over electronic sound effects, blistering drums and a belting guitar riff.

Other greats from the album, like Narayan, provide a more classic dance track feel. But the powerful beats and rhythm still remain as the band remains true to its underground roots. Yet, to stick with the dark undertones, the Prodigy still works in murky lyrics that haunt beneath the semi-upbeat rhythm – ‘If you believe the Western sun, is falling down on everyone, don’t try and run’.

On the 25th anniversary of the Fat of the Land in 2022, the Prodigy went on tour to commemorate their flagship album, sadly without iconic frontman Keith Flint, who died in March 2019.

There’s a reason why the Fat of the Land was given an anniversary tour over previous albums ‘Experience’ and ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’, because it was the most symbolic album of who the Prodigy are – a controversial, super-charged, in your face band ready to tear up the rulebook.

While some of the greatest bands ever had their famous influences and predecessors, the Prodigy created their own path. They tore up musical and cultural conventions with the Fat of the Land, producing 10 badass tracks that battered their way into the UK charts.

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