The Prodigy - Fat of The Land
As an innovative dance music troupe in the early 1990s, Liam Howlett's brainchild project The Prodigy helped to pioneer a hardcore underground dance movement in Britain fueled by drugs, promiscuous teenagers and rebellious decadence. Switch to the later part of the decade, The Fat of The Land
debuts in 1997 to sell a whopping 300,000 plus copies and to cause a massive stir in the world of music.
The innovation and fusion of styles present in Howlett's previous two works, Experience
and Music For The Jilted Generation
, are focused to a tempered point on Fat Of The Land
. Bolstered with a production job that outshines the previous two albums and just about anything else on the scene at the time, every track on offer is a unique and amazing soundscape which pushed the boundaries of electronica at the time. With hardcore breakbeats fusing effortlessly with sparse yet creative sampling, metal guitars, keyboards and a heavy influence of punk, the subculture of Cyberpunk seemed to have found its music. Prodigy (dropping the first word to fit the title into a funky new logo featuring an ant) had evolved to a new level.
1. Smack My Bitch Up - 10/10
The most controversial song off the album for the both the message in the sparse lyrical content present and a brutally graphic first person music video of a wild night out, Smack My Bitch Up caused a massive ruckus in music censorship and women's rights groups. This song is a very fitting opener, dynamic electronica that demonstrates what Howlett is capable of mixing.
2. Breathe - 10/10
The biggest song off the album, and perhaps rightly so. Opening with a walking keyboard rhythm, it soon picks up with some hardcore bass and breakbeat loops. Samples interweave, and create a really paranoid and dark atmosphere. Then in come crashing industrial guitars courtesy of Jim David from Pitchshifter, making one of the most intense and memorable musical moments of the era. Maxim and Keith Flint both come to the fore as an integral part of The Prodigy in this song, previously restricted as dancers on live tour who never recorded on any of the studio albums. Keith Flint became a popular figurehead after this, flaunting his new punk look and yelling in a blunt and unapologetic style that is often compared to John Lydon (known better as Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols). This is the song that perhaps defines the album, with a trippy film clip to boot.
3. Diesel Power - 10/10
The Prodigy enters the realms of hip hop, with Kool Keith from the Ultramagnetic MC's guesting (Howlett hasd sampled several of their tracks, famously the lyrical sample from Smack My Bitch Up
which is taken from the UMC's Give The Drummer Some
). The electronic beats are laid out on some futuristic plain somewhere and really takes you to another place. Kool Keith's lyrics and flow are awesome, with solid delivery.
4. Funky *** - 10/10
Based around a Beastie Boy's sample from the song Root Down
, Funky *** is a trance influenced song that uses far too much creative sampling to be lumbered in that genre. There are many great parts to this that defy description, everything lumbers around in a stoned kind of bounce. The end is very notable for creating an amazingly hollow feeling as sirens blare and pan from the left to right speaker. Funky *** is an exercise in synesthesia if i ever heard it, the colours are so blaringly vivid.
5. Serial Thrilla - 9/10
Sampling a riff from british group Skunk Anansie, this is the most industrial influenced song on the album. Thick distortion cuts through most of it, and a repetitive siren and some trippy sampling mash with some awesome beats. Keith Flint does his shouty punk thing over the top of it, and its a fairly menacing electronica trip.
6. Mindfields - 10/10
Hugely popular. The atmospheric soundscape thing comes into play here, with an arabian sounding guitar picking over drums which sound like they should be played exclusively for Zeus in worship on top of his mountain. Keyboards roll over the top, and Maxim starts singing whilst electronic samples loop in the background. Breakbeats are introduced, and you find that this one of the most original electronica songs ever made.
7. Narayan - 10/10
This song seems to be all about ambience, with everything seeming to be layered with an ambient effect. The intro keyboards are beautiful, and once the breaks come in it's really great. Maxim sings some great lyrics here that have a timeless quality to them. The song is very lengthy, a notable part includes a drop into a Gregorian inspired chant. This leads to a complex outro that rolls perfectly into Firestarter.
8. Firestarter - 10/10
One of the most popular and well known songs off the album. Its futuristic dark dance atmosphere lays the perfect template for Keith Flint's antisocial souding lyrical rant. 'Nuff said.
9. Climbatize - 10/10
The name suggests a song that builds up with a great intro, and thats what it delivers. The keyboards at work here interweave with percussion samples to create the sounds of electronic heaven. A menacing bassline then comes in to contradict the whole happy vibe, and a trumpety minor key keyboard sample starts instilling a mood of such ancient foreboding its kind of saddening.
10. Fuel My Fire - 7/10
The weakest point on the album for me, though its not totally bad. Its a cover of an L7 song with some evil sounding keyboard work in it, and some solid distorted guitar crunch to offer some good points. Keith Flint sings this one.
Fat Of The Land
is a landmark album in electronic history, influencing a score of artists outside the scope of the genre for its mashing of styles and cyberpunk feel.
In comparison to Howlett's previous work with The Prodigy, it doesn't feel like a true step away from the original and daring experimentation of Experience
and Music For The Jilted Generation
but rather an evolution of it. This is the sound of the future, way back in 1997.