The Prodigy - Music For The Jilted Generation - Review
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critics' view

It was their chart-topping 1996 single, “Firestarter”, that first took up lighter and aerosol and burnt the name of The Prodigy – and the piercing-covered gurn of Keith Flint – onto the national consciousness. But if you want to mark the point this gang of Essex ravers first learnt to unite the chemical rush of acid house and the anti-authority attitude that had hitherto been the preserve of black-clad anarcho-punks like Crass and their ilk, not loved-up glowstick twirlers, look back a couple of years to their 1994 album Music For The Jilted Generation.

Recorded against the backdrop of the Criminal Justice Act, the ’94 legislation that effectively criminalised outdoor raving – ‘How can the government stop young people from having a good time?’, reads a note on the inner sleeve –Music… simmers with righteous, adrenalised anger, rave pianos and pounding hardcore breakbeats augmented by gnarly punk guitar, wailing sirens and on “Break And Enter”, the sound of shattering glass. At no point is this merely a band coasting on edgy vibes and bad attitude, though; rather, this is a record that saw Prodigy mainman Liam Howlett maturing as a producer, increasing his palette of sounds and instruments without diluting The Prodigy’s insolent rush, and simultaneously smash ’n’ grabbing from a diverse range of influences that would be neatly integrated into the band’s design.

On “Their Law”, a guesting Pop Will Eat Itself supply a vitriolic vocal aimed at the powers that be. The knuckle-scraping guitar riff from Nirvana’s “Very Ape” forms the scuzzy chassis to the flute-augmented ‘Voodoo People’. And “No Good (Start The Dance)”, with its Kelly Charles vocal hook, proves that despite The Prodigy’s punk snarl, their pop impulse remained intact.

Best track here, though, is the immortal call-and-response track “Poison”, marking MC Maxim Reality’s on the microphone. And in a surprising nod to the emerging phenomenon of the chill-out room, Howlett divides the album’s final three tracks off into “The Narcotic Suite”, a spacey, synthesiser-powered closing stretch that closes the album like a valium comedown. Anyone who called The Prodigy a one-trick pony clearly never heard this.

Louis Pattison
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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