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The Prodigy
Back catalogue reissues Melissa Bradshaw , August 4th, 2008 14:31

*Experience Expanded
*More Music For the Jilted Generation

Confession: I never bought any Prodigy albums. Nope. Well who needed Experience or Music For The Jilted Generation when everyone around you had them? And I only had £30 a month pocket money to spend (all of it) on music.

When I grew up a little bit and thought I was kinda savvy, I had them down as a little bit too crossover. And silly. I forgot to listen to them for years. Years and years.

So it happened that when I first, in summer 2008, blasted Experience through my somewhat improved hifi, I grinned like an acid face. I sang along to every cheesy keyboard riff and silly little bleep. I could remember it all! And I wished I had been born 10 years earlier, so I had been out at illegal raves instead of in a classroom with a boy called Richard, who had big ears and used to put letters in my desk asking me to go out with him. (He had Experience on tape.)

There has been something of a nostalgia for rave in music lately. Obviously, there is ‘nu-rave’, whose reference points are more visual than musically substantiated; and, better, there are idiosyncratic producers like Silverlink, 8 Bit Boy and Toddla T, who recall bleep and bass and hardcore’s tacky exuberance. This is not the place to ruminate on the source of that nostalgia - maybe it has something to do with credit, debt, society’s increasing atomism and a desire not to be alone anymore - but to commend it anyway.

Experience was an almighty achievement. Who could forget the epic synth chords and ferocious layers of ‘Hyperspeed’? Who even needs to be reminded of ‘Charly’ and ‘Out of Space’? But more thrilling than their cheeky references to childhood innocence and getting out of your head (which went over neither my nor Richard’s heads), are the strange dissonances and furious stabs of ‘Jericho’ and the ominous build up of ‘Weather Experience’. Ambiguous samples linger like a comedown on the horizon, before the track spreads out into wistful melodies interspersed with thundercracks and something that sounds like a mechanical heartbeat.

Another prescient track is ‘Ruff In The Jungle Bizness’, which traced the then emergent trend for fast drums and bass. By the time Music For The Jilted Generation came out, the Criminal Justice Bill had illegalised ecstatic, communal music. Jilted... was also a fuck you, though, to those who had blamed the chart-topping Prodigy for the death of rave. Yes it crossed over. It fucking transcended. Liam proved his musical flexibility on techno workouts like ‘Speedway’, dubbed it out on ‘3 Kilos’ and still did that outter-space trip thing on ‘The Heat’. Tougher tracks like ‘Poison’, ‘Voodoo People’ and ‘Break and Enter’ (sampling broken glass and the sound of locks being picked) took up the looming menace that the jilted generation had been portrayed as and embodied it.

But the sludgy, guitary direction that the rest of the 90s would go down was already there. ‘Their Law’, featuring Pop Will Eat Itself, is franky dull, and even ‘Break and Enter’ goes on a little bit too long. The kinesis, in part friction from the crazy structural juxtapositions of Experience, begins to die down. Funnily, in realising that, you might begin to realise that it’s that sheer sense of rush, of buzz upon buzz feeding exponentially on itself, that’s missing from our current retrospections. It was truly a moment.