THE PRODIGY Music For The Jilted Generation (XL Recordings)
Fifteen years after the fact, The Prodigy’s second album, conceived as a nation’s raving youth trembled under the iron fist of the Criminal Justice Bill, doesn’t sound any prettier than it did at the time. From its Munch-goes-to-metalwork-class cover art to the barely literate back cover protest “How can the government stop young people having a good time. Fight this bollocks” it was a product of an angry, energised, marginalised bunker mentality. The attitude was epitomised in the inner sleeve painting: massed riot police and factories spewing forth pollution on one side of a gorge, sound systems, crusties, camper vans and bucolic bliss on the other.
Well, if it involved being battered by the Prodge’s heartless machine music I know which side of the divide I’d be on. Practically an entire double album’s worth of relentless, functional beats, the euphoric melodies the likes of Orbital and Aphex Twin were creating round about the same time are nowhere to be found amidst this grinding, metallic monotony. There’s the occasional moment of quite goodness: “No Good (Start The Dance)”, with its sampled vocal riff, gives it the illusion of a (borrowed) tune, and the mellow, Mo Wax-y groove of “3 Kilos” provides some desperately needed variety. But otherwise, this is a humourless, joyless, airless record. It’s almost irrelevant to note the pleasantly competent pressing quality of the current vinyl edition given the gruelling nature of the music impacted upon it.
THE PRODIGY Experience (XL Recordings)
The Prodigy’s early material is almost breathtaking in its precision-tooled minimalism. There’s almost no sweetening or cushioning here, not so much as a lyric you could sing or a tune you could hum. It’s brutally functional stuff, dance music in name and nature, and not so far removed in sentiment, if not sound, from the stripped back, punishing work of Jeff Mills. Equally, the band deserve credit for zeroing in so succinctly on the zeitgeist, sending seven of the album’s dozen tracks into the top 20 in some form or other.
Which isn’t to say that I get much enjoyment from actually listening to “Experience”, though. I will allow that “Out Of Space” is bouncily entertaining, as perhaps it should be, being almost larded with gloss and laden with hooks (pilfered from the catalogues of Max Romeo and Ultramagnetic MC’s, admittedly) compared with the rest of the album. And whodathunk there’d be mileage in welding together Michael Fish dialogue samples with bubbling analogue synths, yet “Weather Experience” turns out to be an oasis of calm amidst all these nosebleed beats per minute.