Music

The Prodigy: The Fat of the Land (15th Anniversary Edition)

Seminal electronic dance music album gets a nice reissue that includes interesting, if not essential, remixes from current EDM stars.


The Prodigy

The Fat of the Land (15th Anniversary Edition)

Label: XL Recordings
US Release Date: 2012-12-04
UK Release Date: 2012-12-03
Amazon
iTunes

Looking back, it’s not surprising that electronic dance music made such a splash in the U.S. during the mid-1990s. The alternative rock revolution launched by Nirvana’s Nevermind had curdled into mediocrity, with bland and soulless copycat bands polluting both the charts and airwaves. Music fans were restless; they wanted something new.

Some latched on to the burgeoning alt-country movement, while others turned to the more ironic brand of indie rock offered by groups like Pavement. Then there were those who simply bided their time, waiting for that Next Big Thing.

Enter the Prodigy.

The Prodigy, already a success overseas, crashed into the American consciousness with 1997’s The Fat of the Land, part of a wave of electronic music from the UK that briefly captivated American listeners during the final years of the Clinton era. This music filled the country’s dance clubs, yes, but it didn’t stop there. You heard it at fraternity parties and on movie soundtracks. You saw the videos on MTV. It even got its own cute marketing name: “Electronica”.

Mainstream interest in electronic dance music died down pretty quickly, and it wouldn’t catch fire again until the latter half of the 2000s. But the initial burst allowed acts like the Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers to sell a ton of records.

The Fat of the Land was one of the bigger hits, selling 2.8 million copies in the U.S., and many current American EDM artists cite it as their own Rubber Soul. The album -- a frenzy of hip-hop swagger, buzz-saw synths and a few snarling vocal turns by Keith Flint, who sounds a bit like Johnny Rotten might if possessed by the devil -- has just been reissued in a 15th anniversary package that features the original tracks and a slew of remixes by today’s EDM stars.

So how do the songs hold up a decade and a half later? Pretty well, for the most part. The Prodigy’s attack was always visceral rather than cerebral, and most of the tracks still land like a karate chop to the neck. None more so than the controversial opener “Smack My Bitch Up”, which was accused by some of being misogynistic back in the day because of the oft-repeated title phrase. The lyric, which was sampled from a rap song by the Ultramagnetic MCs, is juvenile and stupid, an unfortunate blot on what otherwise remains a galvanizing piece of dance music.

The record’s other singles, “Breathe” and “Firestarter”, still seethe with menacing power. And the adventurous “Climbatize” weaves everything from animal-like chirps to Eastern horn sounds into a hypnotic groove. Here was a tune that showed how the Prodigy could deliver more than muscular dance beats.

A few of the songs creak a bit with age. “Diesel Power”, which includes a vocal by Kool Keith, sounds generic and outdated. “Fuel My Fire", the Prodigy’s reworking of an L7 song, makes you long for the unadorned punk fury of the original. Overall, though, this key document of late 1990s pop culture holds its own in the 21st century.

Of course, longtime fans of the Prodigy probably know all that already. For them, the interest will lie in the six remixes included with this reissue. The remixes come from current EDM heroes, which seems like an effort to give this “old” music a contemporary sheen. Honestly, they needn’t have bothered. There’s some interesting stuff in the remixes, but they’re hardly essential listening, and they don’t surpass the originals.

Both Noisia and Major Lazer take swings at “Smack My Bitch Up”. Noisia adds a lurching, booming break to the middle of the song, while Major Lazer delivers a slightly more playful take. Zeds Dead, meanwhile, provides a jarring overhaul of “Breathe” that includes a faster techno-style drumbeat and periodic explosions of bass-heavy synths -- for my money, it’s the most memorable remix here. The other remixes come from Baauer (“Mindfields”), the Glitch Mob (“Breathe”) and Alvin Risk (“Firestarter”).

The reissue of The Fat of the Land is available on CD and vinyl, though the vinyl version doesn’t contain the remixes. (Those songs are available on vinyl separately as The Added Fat EP.) It’s a decent package, particularly for younger EDM fans, who can now find out just how the geezers used to do it.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image