Reissued with additional remixes, but the original tracks remain the must-haves.
Mike Diver 2012
Braintree ravers The Prodigy were already a big deal before the release of this third album, 1994’s Music for the Jilted Generation LP having hit No.1. But if the band’s ballistic beats could (just about) be ignored in 1995, their releases of 1996 changed everything.
Breathe, issued in November, charted at No.1, laying a perfect foundation for The Fat of the Land’s summer-of-97 launch. But it was this set’s lead single which elevated The Prodigy from crossover attractions to mainstream-slaying megastars.
The Breeders-sampling Firestarter was, for many, the sound of 1996. Dancer Keith Flint stepped up to the mic (for the first time) to rasp a combative nursery rhyme that instantly collapsed pop’s four corners. His appearance in the track’s video, twin rows of spikes atop his head, was indelibly striking, and soon enough parodied.
Firestarter was the band’s first No.1 – and with it these rabble-rousers altered not only their own fortunes but the entire pop firmament. But as Music for… illustrated, there was more to the skills of central songwriter Liam Howlett than mountains of machine-gun breaks.
Music for…’s three-track Narcotic Suite showcased a less-caustic sound, and The Fat of the Land balances its bangover-encouraging bombast with more spacious offerings.
Climbatize is one such piece, a slow-burning, almost meditative instrumental that fills its MC-shaped space with alien buzzes and insectoid percussive chatter.
Unlike its immediate predecessor, The Fat of the Land featured a variety of guest vocalists: Kula Shaker’s Crispian Mills (Narayan), Kool Keith (Diesel Power) and Republica’s Saffron (Fuel My Fire). These turns immediately date this set, threatening its longevity into the 21st century. But in fairness to the often-maligned Mills, his performance is tremendous, mantra-mumblings aside.
And persist this album has – today, it can hold a twitchy attention for the duration, passing from the thumping Funky S*** to the crunching guitars of Serial Thrilla. Marking its 15th anniversary, this expanded reissue features six new remixes, geared more for newcomers than longer-term acolytes.
The Noisia and Alvin Risk remixes, of Smack My Bitch Up and Firestarter respectively, trade in low-end lurches and uncompromising womp commonplace in contemporary EDM.
The Zeds Dead mix of Breathe turns stadium-chiptune at times, like Chipzel’s Super Hexagon soundtrack fired into the sun, and Baauer’s Mindfields incorporates incisive hip hop elements. They’re fine-enough extras, but inessential compared to the vital originals.