The Fat of the Land, by The Prodigy
Suggested by Jamie Walsh
I remember the controversy around Smack My Bitch Up.
After the success of Firestarter, The Prodigy released Smack to the singles-buying public late in 1997. The songs title and lyrics (constant repetitions of the phrases “change my pitch up, smack my bitch up”) were lambasted by TV and radio stations across the UK for being misogynistic in design, despite strenuous but rather anaemic protestations from the band. The music video, if I recall correctly, was broadcast in full on a post-watershed Channel Four evening, flagged by the conservative presses as a “do not watch this filth” obvious watercooler moment.
I watched it. As did, I suspect, the entire nation.
The video is entirely shot from the point of view of a lager-swilling, kebab-eating, fist-flying, stripper-grabbing, up-chucking lout. It chronicles the progression of what said lout would doubtless decree a “cracking night out,” invovling booze, drugs, fights, sex, and puke. At the end of the video, the protagonist stares into a mirror for the first time, and we discover that… it’s a woman.
THEY TWISTED IT, YOU SEE! IT WAS A WOMAN! NOT A MAN! Wooooaaah, they’re good.
Joking aside, The Prodigy were always willing to test the boundaries and throw up new shapes. Early on, in their stock ravecore days, they invented Toytown Rave with the excellent Charly, utilizing samples from the Seventies public information cartoons that featured Charly the Cat. The release of The Fat of the Land, and the seminal Firestarter, saw them transcend the rave culture to become dance legends, with well-earned mainstream success.
So let’s move on to Firestarter. This twisted track (hah!) is my standout, with grinding synths and an infectious, infected drum sequence. It sounds dangerous without the vocals, but when Keith Flynt takes the stage with his barking cockney-sounding menace, there’s sulphur in the air as the sparks start flying. Flynt, a founder member of the band who turned singer / frontman for this album, became the face of The Prodigy after this iconic performance.
The album’s third song of note is Breathe. It’s probably the strongest, musically, utilizing the aspects that make Smack and Firestarter so powerful (drumbeat, synth, and driving bass) with a multi-layered vocal that’s both deliriously manic and a delightful nasal whine.
Three excellent tracks do not make an album, but the remainder of the songs do not disappoint. Both Diesel Power and Serial Thrilla are particular highlights, and you’d be hard pressed to find a clunker from start to finish. They’re not as strong as the belters, sure, but the three in question are genuine career-defining tunes. There’s not much that can stand proud in such exalted company.
The Fat of the Land is the Prodigy’s magnum opus. It gets a fine 8/10.
Outside of The Prodigy, Keith Flynt bought a country pub, at which he was a popular landlord. The pub had a jar on the bar, into which patrons were required to pay a fine if they made an obvious comment when they saw Keith lighting the pub’s fire. You left too soon, Keith… Rest well.