So, about that fire that needed starting...The Prodigy
are an Electronic Music
band from the UK. Besides being popular in their own right, they were one of the most important bands of the "Big Beat" subgenre of The Nineties
(the other were The Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method and Fatboy Slim
, for starters).
The band were formed in 1990. Its membership since then has been relatively stable, comprising:
- Liam Howlett - one man band, handles all the keyboards, programming, producing and songwriting. Howlett got the band's name from his Moog Prodigy synthesizer.
- Keith Flint - vocalist, also known for his Horned Hairdo and generally scary appearance
- Maxim Reality (real name Keith Andrew Palmer, confusingly) - vocalist/MC, contributes rapping
Their fourth member, Leeroy Thornhill, was a dancer who occasionally played keyboards live. He left in 2000 due to a Creator Breakdown
The Prodigy's early material was largely straightforward rave with humorous samples thrown in, as shown by their debut album Experience
. While this was a success in the early 1990s and spawned several singles like "Out of Space" and "Charly", it gave them a reputation as lightweights, attracting derisive nicknames like "kiddie ravers" or "Toytown techno". Inspired by the impending passage of the landmark Criminal Justice Act (which cracked down hard on the rave scene) Howlett threw out all the bright and colourful rave
for their follow-up Music for the Jilted Generation
, instead cultivating an angry, heavy sound drawing from techno, breakbeat and industrial rock. The track "Their Law" marked their first collaboration with a rock band, Pop Will Eat Itself
, while "Voodoo People" kept them on the charts.
The band's landmark success finally came with The Fat Of The Land
(1997). By this point, Howlett had managed to upgrade his equipment, making the beats heavier and giving the album an overall intense, creepy atmosphere. He also took the rock inclinations shown on Jilted
one step further and openly aimed his music at the Alternative Rock
audience, bringing Jim Davies (from the industrial rock band Pitchshifter) to add awesome guitar riffs
all over the place, sampling from more rock songs, letting Keith and Maxim add more shouted vocals and including a straight Cover Version
of "Fuel My Fire" by L7. Howlett also put in more outside contributions, bringing in Matt Cameron
, Tom Morello
(on the bonus track "No Man Army"), Kool Keith
and others. His gambit worked: Fat
became a massive success in the UK and USA (where it went to #1), spawned several hit singles with Nightmare Fuellerrific
videos ("Smack My Bitch Up", "Breathe" and "Firestarter") and brought them an audience of rock fans that otherwise didn't really pay attention to electronic music
. There was also controversy involved over the video to "Smack My Bitch Up" (which featured more nudity then any other video up to that point, as well as scenes of violence, drug use, and drunk driving), to the point that MTV refused to air it before midnight. But this turned out to be a case of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity
, as it won a VMA.
The band enjoyed their time in the spotlight and laid low for a few years. Howlett put out a mix album named The Dirtchamber Sessions Vol. 1
, Leeroy Thornhill left in 2000 and the band also parted ways with their live guitarist Gizz Butt, but nothing much was heard from their camp for a while. Their next single, "Baby's Got a Temper", was released in 2002 to critical disappointment, but warm fan reception. A new album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
, followed two years later. It was greeted with general disappointment as well.
After another four-year pause, the band put out a new album, Invaders Must Die
. This was noticeably better received than Outnumbered
. A sixth album is on its way, and will be released some time later this year.
- Experience (1992)
- Music for the Jilted Generation (1994)
- The Fat Of The Land (1997)
- Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (2004)
- Invaders Must Die (2009)
Tropes associated with The Prodigy
- And Then John Was a Zombie: "You're the firestarter, twisted firestarter."
- Broken Record: "Spitfire" has only one line: "If I was in World War II they'd call me SPITFIRE!!!!!". Another line, "'Cuz you know that I can", is occasionally heard.
- Cover Version: "Fuel My Fire" was originally by L7.
- Darker and Edgier: Music For The Jilted Generation, and how.
- Fading into the Next Song: Used extensively on Experience. It was used more sparingly on Music for the Jilted Generation and The Fat of the Land.
- "Jericho" → "Music Reach (1/2/3/4)" → "Wind It Up" → "Your Love" → "Hyperspeed" → "Charly" "Out of Space" → "Everybody in the Place" "Weather Experience" → "Fire" → "Ruff in the Jungle Bizness"
- "Intro" → "Break and Enter" "Speedway (Theme from Fastlane)" → "The Heat (The Energy)"
- "Funky Shit" → "Serial Thrilla" → "Mindfields" → "Narayan"
- Horned Hairdo: Keith Flint
- Large Ham: Maxim and Keith.
- Mondegreen: "Change my picture, snap my picture".
- "Super girls like free", "Make me buy a shirt!"
- Misogyny Song: "Smack My Bitch Up" has been speculated to be this. In the end, per Word of God, it isn't.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Surprisingly high for a band of this nature. Most of their songs are in the 4 to 6 range, with a few even bordering on a 7.
- 4 - "Voodoo People"
- 5 - Most of the songs from Invaders Must Die
- 6 - "Their Law", "Firestarter"
- 7 - "Serial Thrilla", "Fuel My Fire", "Spitfire"
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: To the part they created a whole new genre known as big beat, with The Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method, and Fatboy Slim. Together, all of these artists create "the Big Four of big beat".
- New Sound Album: Music for the Jilted Generation, arguably The Fat of the Land and Invaders Must Die.
- The Nineties
- Ominous Hindi Chanting: "Om namah, Naryana"
- Ominous Xylophone Tune: In "Omen". The music video even comes complete with a Creepy Child to play it.
- One-Woman Wail: "Spitfire".
- Planet of Keiths: Once Leeroy left, this meant two out of three of the band's members were named Keith. And because two Keiths wasn't enough, Diesel Power and You'll Be Under My Wheels featured vocals from rapper, Kool Keith.note
- Precision F-Strike: "Fuck 'em and their law!"note
- Punny Name: "Mindfields".
- Running Gag: A few from the Jilted Generation videos, excluding "One Love."
- Keith getting himself into trouble (caught in a vine trap at the beginning of "Voodoo People," then having to be rescued later in the same video, getting trapped in a box with no air at the end of "No Good," and getting into a fight with Liam in "Poison")
- Liam getting angry and hitting something (he takes a sledgehammer to a wall in "No Good," then wrestling Keith to the ground for smashing the drumkit in "Poison")
- Maxim's eyes briefly turning to yellow cat eyes (happens in all three videos, most notably in "No Good")
- Sampling: From varied sources given the band's unusual mixture of genres, including John Barry's score for The Man with the Golden Gun.
- Scary Black Man: Maxim, especially during live performances when he's incoherently yelling vulgarities and growling at the audience.
- Singer Namedrop: On "Invaders Must Die". "We are... The Prodigy."
- Studio Chatter: "Poison" begins with a phone ringing and someone saying "Liam, someone on the phone for you", to which Liam replies "Fuck's sake, I'm tryna write this fuckin' tune, man".
- Subliminal Seduction: "Full Throttle" has its titular vocal samplenote reversed.
- Sword Fight: Sound effects used as percussion on "Breathe".
- Tomato Surprise: The music video for "Smack My Bitch Up".