When a teenager Liam Howlett began assembling the first early demos that would eventually become The Prodigy from a home in Braintree, Essex, in the very late 80s, he could not imagine the lasting impact that his music – and the group he formed around her – reportedly. The Prodigy would emerge as a leader in Essex’s burgeoning rave scene, eventually becoming a household name and a force that would change electronic music forever.
Their first albums marked an era, making history by becoming known in both the United Kingdom and the United States (The fat of the earth reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 more than a decade before dance music truly took over the United States), and influenced generations of DJs, bands and artists from all musical walks of life. They were as visually iconic as they were musically, the terrifying form of Keith Flint shivering around a disused London Underground station in the Fire starter video producing one of the most enduring images of the 90s. Their incendiary live shows, fronted mostly by dancers/singers Keith and Maxim Reality, quickly became legendary, putting many “proper” rock and metal bands to shame. as they ripped through stages like Glastonbury, Phoenix, Reading and, eventually, Download.
With The Prodigy set to continue after some time following Keith Flint’s shocking death in 2019, we thought we’d dissect their excellent discography so far. Here are the seven Prodigy albums ranked from worst to best.
7. Always Outnumbered, Never Outnumbered (2004)
Undergoing many adjustments following the negative reception given to the 2002 standalone single Baby has a temper and stacked with guest stars including the Gallagher brothers, Juliette Lewis, Kool Keith and Twista, Always outnumbered, never outnumbered is most notable for having no direct involvement from Keith Flint or Maxim Reality.
Although it’s a really good EDM album in its own right and songs like Spitfires, Girls and hot ride still a world-class sound today, the absences of Keith and Maxim rob the record of vital energy and attitude. Add to that production that is, on occasion, surprisingly smooth, sounding at points closer to mid-2000s contemporaries like Mylo than anything else The Prodigy had put its name to, and you have a record that ultimately looks more like a decent Liam Howlett. side project than a full-fledged advertisement for his daily work. Luckily, after a few relationships in the ranks, Keith and Maxim were fired back in for the follow-up.
6. The Day Is My Enemy (2015)
Pursue a career of rebirth The invaders must day was never going to be easy, and to his credit, The day is my enemy is still a record that has comfortably left most other veteran dance act offerings in the dust. The title track is a menacing, pounding, mechanized monster, wild frontier sounds like a grinder-powered Atari during an acid-induced frenzy and Destroy take the beef from The fat of the earth and season with a few Experience-hyper-rave era.
That said, at 14 songs, that’s at least two or three tracks too many, and some of the album’s greatest moments had been played with more emphasis elsewhere (Bad is very fun but effective Modern Prodigy 101, while rhythm bomb is just warrior dance with extra base). A great album? Sure. But a really great album by The Prodigy standards? Maybe not quite.
5. No Tourists (2018)
Or The day is my enemy suffered from being a little bloated, No tourists had no such problems: this is the tightest and most concise album of The Prodigy’s career. Named as a middle finger to the hikers cluttering the 2010s dance scene, over ten tracks and under 38 minutes it goes in, smashes the shit out of everything around it and disappears again before you’ve had an opportunity to breathe. The tastes of Light up the sky, Time bomb zone, London champions and a delicious dairy Fight fire with fire – featuring scabrous punks Ho99o9 – are all full-throttle pit stars, fusing classic Prodigy trademarks with modern crunch and groove.
Of course, the legacy of No tourists will always carry an additional emotional weight; it was the last Prodigy album released before we lost Keith Flint the following year. As unwitting homages roll in, it fulfills its purpose perfectly: the ultimate crystallization of everything The Prodigy had built thus far. And with one track in particular, they also unwittingly created the perfect motto to remember Keith by: We live forever.
While the influences of the rave scene that carried them are splashed all over The Prodigy’s debut album, it ultimately feels more like something turned around by a group of space travelers who accidentally sucked themselves through three parallel dimensions on the way back. Not only that, but there are times on Experience who make the easiest wrong that The Prodigy ever rang. Sure, they got “heavier” after that point, but bits like Jerichoall the roaring horns and offbeat keyboard smashes, and the pure psychotic rave-up of Music range (1,2,3,4), sound like tunes being played at a Satan-goofed backyard rave.
There’s also a nice explosion of early 90s house (Your love), soaring drum’n’bass (Charly), an ingenious inversion of a reggae classic by Max Romeo (Out of space) and an eight-minute progressive instrumental that sounds like a broken down computing robot on an abandoned planet (meteorological experiment). It’s all funneled through a relentless record that barely leaves the beat for an hour of genre-altering mayhem. Thirty years later, there’s still nothing else quite like it.
3. Invaders Must Die (2009)
“…We are the prodigy.”
Although it would be remiss to claim that the Always more armed… the era did not succeed (fire eater remains in the top ten of the band’s most popular songs on Spotify), Liam Howlett’s decision to dump his bandmates for the recording process was controversial, resulting in an album that didn’t quite capture the spirit of what The Prodigy was. As the 2000s progressed, electronic music found another wind, the “new rave” became A Thing and the success of bands like Pendulum meant that heavy dance numbers attracting musically diverse crowds became much less of a novelty. The Prodigy needed to make a statement. “[This album has] come out of a really tough time for us,” Liam told the Guardian. “We feel like we really had to fight.” invaders must die.
Bringing Keith and Maxim back into the studio and updating the classic Prodigy sound with a contemporary dose of adrenaline has resulted in the band’s most dynamic album since the 90s. Anchored by two all-time great Prodigy singles in invaders must die and Presagethe record was the perfect fusion between influences from the past (The warrior’s dancetaken from the techno classic 91 by True Faith take me away is wonderfully executed) and the vitality of the present (Colors takes more than a little influence from Hadouken’s bleepy dance-punk!). It gave The Prodigy a much-needed breath of fresh air, cementing them as dance music’s most essential band for a whole new (dropped out) generation.
2. Fat from the earth
In June 1995, The Prodigy decimated the NME scene at Glastonbury, stealing the weekend from a conquering Oasis and shaping themselves as the most electrifying live band on planet Earth. Bolstering their show with live guitarist Jim Davies and a new heavy-as-hell track titled awesome shit, they surprised festival-goers unfamiliar with their music and those who previously doubted dance music’s ability to move people beyond the confines of a club or warehouse. With that in mind, work would soon begin on more material befitting their new status as the leader of live music hell. Two years later, The Prodigy returned to Glasto with a set dominated by tracks from their upcoming new studio album: The fat of the earth.
With more guitars, more distortion and heavier bass lines, The fat of the earth also included more songwriting contributions from Keith and Maxim, resulting in the heaviest record The Prodigy had ever created. The album would define their career – Hit my female dog, To breathe and Fire starter proving to be anthems as generational as anything the 90s has produced, while the likes of awesome shit, diesel power and Narayan almost 25 years later, they still sound as propulsive and powerful as when they first came out. Add some icons (and, in the case of Hit my female dogcontroversial) videos and you have an era that took the pace – and perhaps even the rise of dance music itself – to its absolute peak.
1. Music for the Forsaken Generation (1994)
While The fat of the earth came to define much of The Prodigy’s career, it was arguably his predecessor who truly honed their sound and produced Liam Howlett’s most heartfelt artistic statement. A response to the Criminal Justice Bill of 1994 aimed at cracking down on unlicensed raves and effectively killing underground dance culture, Music for the Forsaken Generation was an incendiary sonic nailbomb launched directly in the direction of the Powers That Be. bubbling their law has become the anti-establishment anthem of ravers everywhere; Poisonthe hypnotic beats made it an instant favourite; the magnificent voodoo people was unlike anything dance had seen before, stitching together a Nirvana-mimicking guitar riff with bursts of tribal flutes and dark, heart-pounding techno.
The tastes of Break and enter and Not good provided the perfect meeting points between the psycho-rave of Experience and the big chaos that would come to the fore on The fat of the earthwhile the three twenty-minute songs Narcotic Suite provided a magnificent final arc, showing that, in the case of 3kg and skyline, Howlett was just as capable of writing pretty, meditative electronics as he was of hard, heavy bangers. It was the crowning achievement of dance music at a time when the scene was at its most fertile, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that has topped it since. Electronic music doesn’t get much better than this.
The Prodigy is filming in England in July. A new album is expected later this year.
2022 Prodigy Tour Dates
Jul 08: O2 Academy, Sheffield
July 9: O2 Academy, Sheffield
July 14: Monford Hall, Liverpool
July 15: O2 Academy, Leeds
July 16: O2 Academy, Birmingham
July 18: O2 Town Hall, Newcastle
July 19: O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
July 22: London O2 Academy, Brixton
July 23: London O2 Academy, Brixton