Unlike most in the electronic music scene, Prodigy knows how to put on a show. Their sound is big and loud, but that's not the half of it. They also blast audiences with arena-sized performances, complete with strobe lights, the occasional... [more]
Unlike most in the electronic music scene, Prodigy knows how to put on a show. Their sound is big and loud, but that's not the half of it. They also blast audiences with arena-sized performances, complete with strobe lights, the occasional pyrotechnic display, a professional dancer named Leeroy, and the leering, mohawked visage of outlandish frontman Keith Flint. Prodigy is big beat techno gone rock 'n' roll.
Despite all the media-friendly glitz, Prodigy's real creative juice comes from one unassuming guy named Liam Howlett. Fusing a background in hip-hop with the acid house craze, Howlett began producing fun, energized breakbeat techno tracks during the early '90s. Prodigy's first hit 'Charly' debuted in 1991 at the height of the ecstasy/rave phenomena. The track, which samples a meowing cat and a popular British public service announcement ("Charly says, 'Always tell your mommy before you go off somewhere'"), was irresistible in its irreverence and found its way into both the dance and pop charts of the U.K. The crossover success of 'Charly' presaged Prodigy's later success as an act that could be commercial yet not fluffy. Prodigy's first album, 'The Prodigy Experience' (1992), proved to be more of the same high-energy fare. This album is an early-'90s raver tribute, an incessant barrage of high-pitched sirens and beats.
Later albums move away from the 'happy raver' aesthetic and toward a rather interesting flirtation with hard rock. Tracks rely less on souped-up samples and more on vocals in a more traditional pop music structure. (In 1993, ragga MC Maxim Reality came onboard to provide a voice.) 'Music for the Jilted Generation' (1995) is darker and dirtier, with chunky breakbeats accompanied by crunchy guitars and acid sounds. When Maxim Reality spits out a call for all the 'magic people, voodoo people' in the song 'Voodoo People,' heads start banging almost without meaning to.
When electronic music became the commercial flavor of choice in the mid-1990s, Prodigy's rock-style ethic equaled instant accessibility for uninitiated listeners. 1997's 'The Fat of the Land' even made the group a success with traditionally anti-electronic American audiences. Tracks like 'Firestarter' and 'Smack My Bitch Up' feature grinding, forward-moving rhythms and the energetic snarls of Flint and Maxim. During a time when commercial dance music was descending into a sloppy spiral of poppy, sampled tunes, Prodigy kept their characteristically electrified, semi-violent vibe. The controversial music video for 'Smack My Bitch Up,' which features everything from snorting coke to alcohol-induced vomiting and promiscuous sex, is an apt summation of Prodigy in these later years. It may be shallow and sensationalistic at times, but it's good fun that's a little bit bad. [show less]