Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 8.5)
As surely as the sun will rise, teenagers will be angry. And as certain as the setting of that same sun, those teenagers will be misunderstood. Due to this anger/misunderstanding complex inherent in teens, music has always risen to the challenge of creating a sound as angry and misunderstood as those teeangers. Something the bored loner can blare through his headphones between passing periods or crank up in his mom’s Subaru. For a period stretching from the first time The Kinks took razor blades to speaker cones to create “You Really Got Me” in 1964 to Guns ‘n’ Roses eager endorsements of drunk driving on Appetite for Destruction
in 1986, guitar rock has fulfilled this role. But with the arrival of rap music in the popular conscious - more specifically the release of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton
in 1988 - nearly all guitar music was rendered downright quaint by comparison almost immediately. As a consequence, loud guitars would no longer be enough to satiate the disaffected masses, now they needed something that their parents couldn't even recognize as music.
The Prodigy stepped into their role as teenage angst conduit with the aptly titled Music for the Jilted Generation
. Taking cues from rap music’s chaotic sampling (a la Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad) and raw statements (“*** em and their law”), Music for the Jilted Generation
retains its explosive power by being proudly obnoxious. Almost every instrument here, whether its the shattering of glass or a pitched up vocal or a sampled car alarm for god sakes, is designed to annoy and command attention. It’s a bold rejection of London’s anti-rave Criminal Justice and Public Order Act as just about every second has been designed to incite noise complaints.
While it may not contain any subwoofer blowing drops, almost all obnoxious strains of EDM have their roots in Music for the Jilted Generation
. Liam Howlett’s ADHD programming means you never have to touch a dance floor to be amply entertained by the songs on display here. These songs are laden with hooks, the keystone synth hooks of “Their Law” and “Voodoo People” are so potent you can almost see the pleasure centers of your brain lighting up on an MRI machine when they hit. “Break & Enter” holds its bleeping hook until 2/3s of the song has elapsed and when it shows up it rains like manna from heaven. Even more interesting is that even two decades after its release, Music for the Jilted Generation
is still scary
. All of these songs seem to be running on a dead momentum, music for clubs of people dancing because they can’t control their internal motors anymore. “No Good (Start the Dance)” holds a fearsome bass rip that lunges out of the mix like a snarling dog while the sped up vocal strips the confidence out of the words and leaves a trembling anxiety in its place. “The Poison” changes up the pace for an uber cool, fantasy fight scene soundtrack with a big ass drum loop and red alert synths.
Would it be surprising if I told you multiple songs off Music for the Jilted Generation
were used in 1995’s wildly inaccurate Angelina Jolie vehicle Hackers
? It’s almost too
obvious. The Prodigy’s l33thaxx0r jams sound like prime soundtrack material for flickering screens and fingers flying across keyboards and while The Prodigy wouldn’t take electronica global until 1997’s The Fat of the Land
, Music for the Jilted Generation
represents their peak. It’s worldview and approach to music making might be best summarized by a quote from the aforementioned Hackers
: “There is no right and wrong. There's only fun and boring.”