Good day to you all folks – this is your Electronic Editor here calling in for a momentous yet nostalgic occasion! For today is the 4th July, and as much as we love our fellow friends over the other side of the pond in the USA (who we wish a very wonderful Independence Day), that is not the occasion for which we are holding with dear rejoice.
For if you are a true electronic fan, or an electronic music fan old enough to remember when it came out, 20 years ago today, one of the most innovative, influential, and game changing electronic albums of all time was released – ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ by The Prodigy; a band who have become the masters of their own craft, continuously pushed the envelope for artistic experimentation, and have revolutionised dance music on a whole.
Firstly, I would like to start this feature on a personal note about when I first came across this album back in the year of 1994 – where pop culture was at its most fruitful, televisual programming was at its most fun, and there were many amazing styles of musical genres all around the spectrum booming and changing the shape of music forever.
It was actually on my 9th birthday that I bought a cassette tape copy of ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ at Dumpton Park Market – which was a weekly stall market which was made up in the car park of a (then) local greyhound racing track down in the South-East of Kent. My mum used to go there every week to hang out and see her mates who would usually go to the music stall, where they would hang out, talk music, trade cassette tapes, and for myself – shape the musical structures within my personal life, and assist me in being as open minded as I am about all styles of music to this days.
I previously was put on to The Prodigy‘s debut album ‘Experience‘, after having a rummage through some old school rave mixtapes, which were made up for me by my mother and her mates. Such dance acts on these mixtapes included Technotronic, Deee-Lite, Altern-8, SL2, Liquid, The Shamen, The Ratpack, Messiah, and of course the highly influential and controversial The KLF. On top of this, I found a copy of ‘Experience‘, to which I had seen the video for the song ‘Charly‘ previously on some TV show (probably The Word). I was mesmerised by the (at the time) innovative, energetic, and hyper-mental musical ferocity that it provided. It opened my ears to a whole new world of music – and to this very day, has had a significant influence on me.
Of course, after playing these cassettes to death, I purchased some other rave megamix cassettes to listen to in between the period of ‘Experience‘ and ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ with my own pocket money (cassettes were £1 for me back then, good times). They were these two compilations – Energy Rush Volume 1, and Hit The Decks Volume 2 – The Ultimate Hardcore Megamix.
If anyone remembers either of these compilations, then I salute you, for they were a fond part of my childhood years, and I now have CD copies of these, which I cherish greatly.
Fast forward to my ninth birthday – 16th July 1994. I went and purchased a copy of ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ at the aforementioned market. When I got back and played it on my Amstrad stereo player, what came out of those speakers was nothing short of pure majesty. A whole album riddled with some of the most abrasive, genre-melding greatness I had ever heard in my entire life. To this very day, I don’t think I have come across many artists in the electronic music world who have even come close to replicating and pushing the boundaries just as much as The Prodigy did with this album.
The hypnotic opening track, a blend of Eastern-sounding drones, the clicking of a typewriter, and a rephrasing of a speech excerpt of The Lawnmower Man, was enough to grab my attention in a sinister fashion. This then led to the raw, gritty techno-fuelled ‘Break And Enter‘. A sample-heavy layered song which borders between the lines of the hectic yet aggressive rage of minor key blips and breaks, mixed with the female-led vocals which brought the ‘Experience‘ era Prodigy in to a new musical awakening.
What followed on from this was the tune that changed it all for me – the skull-crushing, bass-heavy dirge of ‘Their Law‘.
At the time, I had no idea that the song was adopted as a ‘fuck you’ anthem in response to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which, to educate younger generations, was the act to which gig-goers and ravers were criminally prosecuted with when illegal raves were executed all over Britain around this time. But, this was absolutely over my radar as I was only nine years old.
What I heard when that song came out of those speakers, was the future of dance music. It sounded fresh, it sounded unlike anything I had ever heard. It was heavy, it was dark, it brought the world of dance music and rock music together – something which had rarely been heard before, other than The KLF‘s collaborative version of ‘3AM Eternal’ with crust-punk crew Extreme Noise Terror. This sounded like the perfect hybrid, the perfect balance of heavy music and electronic music.
As we move on, we have songs on ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ which also have similarities to the material on ‘Experience‘. Songs such as the chemically-pumped, hyper jacked ‘Full Throttle‘, ‘Speedway‘, ‘The Heat (The Energy)‘, and ‘One Love‘ (which music maestro Liam Howlett amusingly declared that he hated the music video for). Whilst these songs are wonderful compositions, they don’t reflect the best work on this album, nor push the boundaries like the ‘Break And Enter‘ and ‘Their Law‘ .
The genre-hybrid experimentation goes further however with track ‘Voodoo People’, which years and years later would become famously remixed in drum and bass form by Pendulum. This song further carried the post-apocalyptic rave sounds of the Nirvana sampled guitar hook from ‘Very Ape‘, mixed with hardcore-techno and breakbeat drum patterns, and manipulated synth sounds which make up the high-pitched cacophony.
The next song to follow suit is the murky, dark, and mind-bending ‘Poison‘. This song to many listeners, as well as Liam Howlett himself, is the song that pushed The Prodigy into the echelons of groundbreaking territory, with Liam also claiming it to be (at the time of interviewing him in 2004) the most important song in The Prodigy‘s career to date, as well as his favourite.
We then have a song which sounds like the post-apocalyptic anthem to every underground dance floor in the world – ‘No Good (Start The Dance)‘. This was the second ever video by The Prodigy that I personally saw, and once again it changed my world and opened my eyes to a new form of music and an entirely new music culture which was undergoing a major transformation in pop culture history.
Perhaps some of the most unusual musical leanings on the album comes in the form of ‘The Narcotic Suite‘ which is made up of the three songs ‘3 Kilos‘, ‘Skylined‘, and ‘Claustrophobic Sting‘ which, if you listen to each individual song, is like a musical representation of the effects of consuming a certain drug – we will leave that for you to decipher.
So with this all in summary – ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘, for myself, as well as for many others was groundbreaking and in some respects, life changing. Without this album, we would not have half of the acts that you would see today, not just in electronic music, but to a certain degree, in rock music as well (I.E The Mad Capsule Markets, Enter Shikari, Pendulum, Subfocus, etc)
What The Prodigy founded was the perfect mixture of the elements of alternative music and dance music, something which they would later claim for themselves as ‘electronic punks’ – because what they were doing was capturing a punk ethic without sounding punk, being heavy as fuck without being purely rock or metal, and being strictly dance floor music without being purely dance! They created something far beyond their wildest dreams – and was inevitably the pre-cursor for the outrageously famous ‘The Fat Of The Land‘ album, which went on to become one of the highest selling albums of all time.
I recently took the time to ask some people I know what their thoughts and memories are of what ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ meant to them. Here are a few of those people I decided to ask :
Russ Crimewave – Solo Acoustic Musician / Urban Fallout Merchandise
I hauled myself out of the caustic but colourful hate-filled Thatcher and Punk years, casually managing to avoid Rave, Hardcore, House and all the attending repetitive beats and shouting “Aceeeeed!!!” all over the place and into the rather gloomy Brit-Pop filled Nineties. Having lived through and experienced one of the, if not THE most exciting time in musical history, the Nineties was going to have to go a long way to beat it, and it failed quite spectacularly in places. Churning out old guitar riffs dressed up to sound … well, like dressed up 60’s Mod riffs borrowed from The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones, relying heavily on 70’s punk influences such as The Clash, Wire, The Jam, and even The Stranglers, and blatantly ripping off said bands claiming the song to be their own having and never heard of the originals, even though one was a top ten hit and probably in Mum or Dad’s record collection.
I hated the early Nineties with a passion, and I hated what I perceived to be the blandness of the music. I was still going to gigs all be it on a monthly rather than a weekly basis, I really could not get into the ‘modern’ music, even the new punk bands were not very good – relying too much on what had come before instead of coming up with anything original, it was turning into a decade of boredom and it was soul destroying from my musical point of view. I had various people try to convince me to give the emerging dance scene a go. I declined as didn’t want to stand in a warehouse, field or huge club, off my face on some new designer drug listening to the same repetitive beats being played all night by some plonker waving his arms in the air and a load of lasers flashing in my eyes, not for me! I was eventually convinced when someone said to me, “Russ, you have got to see this band, they’re fucking mental and you will love it!“.
Now I don’t strictly remember going to this ‘gig’, but according to a few people I went along on the spur of the moment. Apparently I was so drunk they nearly did not let me in, and got even more plastered because of the arm waving, repetitive beat playing DJ’s, but thoroughly enjoyed the last band who apparently were all dressed in nothing but black and white squares, which is the only thing I kinda vaguely remember. A year or so later I heard ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ for the first time, only giving it a listen because it had Gizz Butt from punk band English Dogs, and Pop Will Eat Itself featuring on it. Intrigued, I bought a copy turned it up and let it hit me. I just listened to it completely dumbstruck! This may have had repetitive beats, but the energy and pure intensity of it knocked me off my feet.
It got put back on again, I took it to one of my mates and insisted on him listening to it. I needn’t have bothered but my mate was the one who had took me to see The Prodigy at that ‘gig’ the year or so beforehand and told me so. I felt a bit of a pillock having got wasted and not remembering, but after a bifta and another Prodigy session, I was hooked on this album. Still didn’t like what I considered the other rubbish at the gig, but The Prodigy were something special. They were ‘Electronic Punk’, and were pretty much the only original thing to come out in ages that dared use the in your faceness of punk and make it their own. They did not use lots of loud guitars, but just a load of passion and the intensity in the music.
I had the pleasure of them blowing me away completely in ’95, when I saw the awesomeness of The Prodigy live at Glastonbury Festival, and considering who else was on the bill (The Cure, Offspring, Elastica, Pulp, Oasis, Weezer, The Shamen, Chemical Brothers, Simple Minds, etc, etc), The Prodigy made my weekend being the last band I saw on the Friday night in preference to Oasis, and the band I enjoyed the most all weekend… and there were some awesome performances! To this day it is one of the few albums from the mid-nineties that I can still play and is still unlike anything before or since. It has been copied an emulated but the intensity of it has never been rivalled.”
Mitch Emery – Writer at Hit The Floor Magazine
Music For The Jilted Generation‘ is just a truly superb album back to back. It is one of the few albums I can put on from start to finish without ever skipping past a single track! I remember hearing ‘Poison’ for the first time as a 15 year old rocker, who was just discovering electronic music via Daft Punk, etc, and being totally blown away. That song had this electronic energy with the fury and aggression of a raucous rock band, yet also seemed to have this almost ragga feel in some of its vocals. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to sitting about with my friends at the time listening to The Prodigy, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Rage Against The Machine. Just pure excellence!
Richard ‘Stretch’ Russell – Bassist at Yamaharahara / Media Transfer & VFX Support at Rushes
Dance music never really did it for me, even as a child in the late 80’s /early 90’s. Still searching for what to listen to and only finding the charts, I would always take the stuff with guitars over the electronic music that was making the top ten. This was the case right up until I discovered ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘, an album that completely changed how I thought about music. Up until that point – rock was rock, dance music was dance music, punk was punk… But this album blended all of the above in a sublime and natural way which I had never heard before. It pushed me to listen to things I otherwise would have dismissed, listening out for what influences the artist may have had when writing, what message they wanted to convey, the attitude that was being presented.
To me it is clear that this album had a similar effect on a lot of people, especially musical acts of that time and to this day. The Prodigy made it OK for two very separate genres of music to cross over, in much the same way that Run DMC and Aerosmith made rap and rock possible. Without ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘, we would have no Pendulum, no Enter Shikari, no Chase & Status, etc. The musical landscape of today would be very different indeed if this album was not possible, and that would be a tragic loss by all means.
To this very day, ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ has been certified 2x platinum in the UK by the BPI, it has received universal acclaim from multiple publishers including Rolling Stone, NME, Q, The Guardian, AllMusic, etc. But more importantly… it has made a significant impact upon thousands upon thousands of musicians and artists worldwide.
Whilst I could not get opinions in from other esteemed names from the music industry in time, I am damned sure that anyone who performs in the industry would whole heartedly agree that this album stands as one of the most critically acclaimed and celebrated electronic music albums of all time in terms of influence, innovative production, genre-defying musical experimentation, diversity, and all out energy and enthusiasm.
I would like to end this feature on a very positive, personal story of mine.
Ten years ago, back in 2004, whilst I was still a student back at Canterbury College studying Creative Music Production and Technology, I had to choose a project of my own topic, and make a decent write up about whatever it was that I wanted to research. I chose to base my project around The Prodigy, and the production techniques that they use.
Being the optimist that I was (and still am), I managed to establish contact with their manager Mike Champion, which still to this very day still surprises me that I even got a response! I explained in the e-mail what I wanted to do with my project, and I optimistically asked if it was at all possible to have an interview with Liam Howlett about these production techniques, among other Prodigy-related questions.
A few days later, I got a call from an unknown number. Whilst I have never been one to answer or tolerate unknown calls, me thinking this was a prank caller I answered with a little hesitancy. To my shock and surprise, the beginning of the conversation went a little like this…
“Hello….?” “Hello there, is this James?” “Uhh yeah, this is James. Who’s calling? This is an unknown number, so I was a little hesitant to pick up straight away…” “Oh hello mate, this is Liam Howlett from The Prodigy!”
It was safe to say that for a mere few seconds I was utterly gobsmacked that one of the biggest acts on the entire planet, as well as one of my personal all time favourite artists and influences, were phoning me up on my awesome little Nokia 3300, on a cold day in south-east Kent. What followed over the next three hours, was a highly substantial, pleasant, in-depth, and insightful conversation with one of the most nicest gentleman in the music industry to this very day.
It all ended with a wonderful invite to get guest list for The Prodigy‘s show at Brixton Academy with Vatican DC, just before their ‘Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned‘ album dropped. The fact that Liam took the time out to phone (the then 19 year old) me out of his own accord, and to give me a chance in achieving something that I deemed unrealistic, was one of the most humbling moments of my entire life. And, to this very day, I shall never forget that.
I would like to send my extended gratitude to Mike Champion, and The Prodigy – ten years later, for giving me my first proper chance at an opportunity within the music industry. Whilst it may have seemed like an innocent interview to you guys, you gave me an incentive and a purpose to continue what I love doing today, and had it not been for that interview, I probably would have not have believed in myself just as much as I do to this present day. Here is a picture of me ten years later, with the signed photo you guys sent me in the post, all them years ago! Mass respect and peace to you all, I am eternally in your gratitude and debt!
One more thing… if you have read this and do not own this album, then do yourself a favour, and go buy ‘Music For The Jilted Generation‘ in any way possible, and educate yourself in a brief history lesson! You will not be disappointed. All hail The Prodigy!