‘Nasty’ was the first single to be taken from ‘The Day Is My Enemy’, the 2015 album that was six years in the making after ‘Invaders Must Die’. It’s the sound of the band at full velocity in their phase of mixing pummeling electronic beats with ten-ton heavy rock riffs. Indeed, ‘The Day…’ would be the first Prodigy album where the trio worked as a band-like unit, with Keith Flint and Maxim sharing songwriting with Liam Howlett. The animated video for ‘Nasty’ features the fox from the album cover leading a group of fox hunters in the woods and turning them into animals with its supernatural powers – strangely enough it was released just over a year before Keith Flint had to explain why he’d been on a hunt himself.
‘FIRE (SUNRISE VERSION)’
Dub and rave combine on ‘Fire’, as The Prodigy pull together synth melodies and piano chords plied with E-numbers and the lyrics of Pablo Gad’s ‘Hard Times’. That’s enough of a sample clash to get you in a frenzy, but imagine the WTF! that’d go through your head – mid rave – when lyrics from The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ enter the fray. Yep, pretty wild.
‘FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE’ FEAT. HO99O9
The Prodigy’s love of fire should come as no surprise considering they’re one the most incendiary dance acts in history (and the nominative determinism of Keith Flint’s surname). After proudly proclaiming to be ‘Firestarters’ in 1996, on their seventh and latest album (2018’s ‘No Tourists’) the group turned their attention to fighting fires – with more fire! This third single from the LP was a collaboration with US hybrid hardcore-hip hop group Ho99o9 (it’s pronounced ‘Horror’), who bring their own raucous energy to the fold to further inflame The Prodigy’s rowdy tendencies. We expect this is what demons rave to in the pits of Hell.
With a title like ‘Destroy’ it isn’t hard to imagine why Liam Howlett’s early perception of what ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ was going to be like was “violence”. The Prodigy are famously cathartic and this belter proves that, 23 years after ‘Experience’ dropped, the band are still as ferocious as ever. It’s also proof that they’ve still got time for humongous breakbeats and ravey synths that go off as loud as air raid sirens.
Just an absolute drum ‘n’ bass onslaught. That’s a fair way of summing of ‘Roadblox’ from 2015 album ‘The Day Is My Enemy’. It’s loaded with classic Prodigy synths, fierce and piercing, with lyrics snapping in yer face. The bassline’s turbo-charged throughout, with buzzes and bleeps frequent, making this d’n’b perfect for sending arenas into a frenzy. Smokin’!
‘BEYOND THE DEATH RAY’
Like the title indicates, ‘Beyond the Death Ray’ sounds like being pulled through some dazzlingly bright tractor beam to the other side of the veil. It’s gripping, intense and slightly overwhelming, but still manages to pack some delicate emotion into that mix via resonant chords and its melancholic-tinged melodies. It’s fitting for The Prodigy that one of their most vulnerable moments is still fierce as hell.
By the time ‘No Tourists’ came out in 2018, The Prodigy were making things look easy. It would be their seventh consecutive UK number one album and the record had been written in a year by Liam Howlett, who was back behind the wheel after the collaborative ‘The Day Is My Enemy’. However, the recording process was far from easy – Howlett cut himself off from friends, went without sleep and stayed in budget hotels away from the rest of the band while on tour to push himself to the limits and get the job done. The video for ‘Timebomb Zone’ is equally brutal, filmed in Manilla and directed by Paco Raterta, whose visuals have “a real different edge, tension and danger… [which] fits perfectly with the music we make,” according to Howlett. The track itself is classic Prodigy rave, albeit with slightly smoother edges than normal, perhaps the result of Howlett emerging bleary eyed into the sunlight after a long stint in the studio. There’s more than a hint of sunrise melancholy in this.
Dare we say ‘Memphis Bells’ is dubstep? Less the sub-low wobblers that were coming thick and fast in the early-00s, more the stadium-sized monsters that would come as the ’00s entered the ’10s. Still, ‘Memphis Bells’ is a dubby weapon equally capable of receiving a head nod from the most qualified of skankers as it is making entry-level raves lose their shit. And who doesn’t love a cow bell?
The blaring intro to this track sounds like World War sirens warning of an impending blitz. It featured on The Prodigy’s 2004 album ‘Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned’, a reference to Walter Mosely’s Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned novel twisted with typical Prodigy swagger. With a crunchy bassline driving through the core, synths sounding like lasers and Paul “Dirtcandy” Jackson’s vocals snarling like a call to arms above, ‘Action Radar’ packs frontline vigour from top to bottom.
‘IBIZA’ FEATURING SLEAFORD MODS
An instant classic! ‘Ibiza’ spits on the VIP and superstar DJ culture that has taken over parts of the island, with the band describing it as “a news report about these guys that just turn up with their songs on a USB stick, in their Learjet.” The track is given a particularly visceral edge by Jason Williamson of punk duo Sleaford Mods, whose vocals are shouted with palpable disdain and backed by Keith Flint’s devilish adlibs. You can tell the two parties are kindred spirits and they link up for the video, which looks like a particularly surreal scene from a Guy Ritchie movie. Super fans will have this on glow-in-the-dark vinyl from Record Store Day 2015.
‘TAKE ME TO THE HOSPITAL’
When announcing the 2009 album ‘Invaders Must Die’, The Prodigy said they’d be returning to their ‘old-school but cutting edge roots”. ‘Take Me To The Hospital’ definitely does this, with its waltzer rave synths bursting the track into life right from the off. From there it’s a bumpy ride of strained lyrics, distorted vocal chops, and erratic drums, resulting in a fireball of rock-rave intensity.
‘THE DAY IS MY ENEMY’
The title-track from The Prodigy’s 2015 album ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ features drumming from Swiss troupe, the Top Secret Drum Corp. Although the landlocked country is a famously peaceful nation, the group’s style is robust and militaristic. It opens the album like a potent battle cry, setting the tone for the record. Howlett’s production is gnarly and scything, and the vocals from Martina Topley-Bird repeating “the day is my enemy, the night my friend” carry a message that will resonate with many rave lifers.
‘INVADERS MUST DIE’
Prodigy albums never start slowly, do they? The title track of their fifth studio album open proceedings with all the subtlety of a space rocket taking off. Released as a single in 2008 and on the album in 2009, it’s propelled by the buzzsaw screech of the indie-electro that had blown up at the time and is co-produced with James Rushent of nu rave outfit Does It Offend You, Yeah?. Not all of the music made by that scene at that time has stood the test of time but ‘Invaders Must Die’ is irrepressible thanks to its screaming synth hook, the likes of which comes second nature to The Prodigy. The track has also been immortalised in pop culture thanks to its use in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Repo Men, Britain’s Got Talent (lol), Doctor Who and computer games Duke Nukem Forever, Crysis 2, DJ Hero 2 as well as a manga, Bleach.
‘Their Law’ is a great, big up yours to the British government, at a time when the establishment was coming down heavy on raving and anything classed as having “repetitive beats”, as stated in the infamous Criminial Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The opening speech mimics the authorities with the words ‘What we’re dealing with here, is a total lack of respect for the law’. Then comes the deadly response: ‘Fuck ’em and their law’. Powerful words intertwined with ravey synths and heavy guitar riffs.
A track and title carrying more of the war-like and incendiary connotations that pattern throughout The Prodigy’s discography. It features eerie backing vocals from Juliette Lewis and All Saints’ Natalie Appleton, who is married to Liam Howlett, which have inspired its inclusion in many horror films and thrillers over the years; File under: atmospheric rave armageddon type beat.
‘WIND IT UP’
It’s 1992. Rave is kicking off. The clothes are baggy, the pills are of exceptionally good quality and all anyone wants to do at the weekend is sack off normal life and get fully stuck in to this emerging youth culture called dance music. Then ‘Experience’ comes along and changes the game with its raw breakbeats, triumphant pianos and helium samples released via a little label called XL. “Equal rights and justice at this time” goes the vocal hook on ‘Wind It Up’. This is hardcore! Fuck John Major!
You know what to expect when a track’s called ‘Poison’ and the tune certainly comes plastered in danger, with shrieks, shrills and cries of ‘I got the poison, I got the poison’. The beats lurch and hang, leaving you feeling like there’s something untoward waiting around the corner. Let’s be honest, mid-90s Prodigy would be high up on your list of people you’d least like to bump into in a dark alleyway.
‘BREAK AND ENTER’
Long before the phrase “deconstructed club” had ever been uttered, The Prodigy were constructing rowdy rave tunes around samples of smashing glass. This one is all about the build: it holds back for the opening minutes with muted bass throbs and sharp screams just escaping from the murk, before letting loose into an adrenaline-charged rush of ebbs that contrast with more strained moments of flow. In unison it’s an ingenious banger that knows how to toy with the dynamics of a dancefloor.
The Prodigy swiftly turned from a blitzkrieg underground rave unit to a best-selling dance music act back in the early 90s thanks to the success of ‘Experience’ and hit singles from that album like ‘Charly’, which peaked at number three in the UK Top 40. But these dizzying heights exposed them to critics who reckoned they’d sold out, to the point where some DJs wouldn’t play Prodigy records and magazines like, ahem, accused them of killing rave. To prove the haters wrong, ‘One Love’ was originally released as a white label under the Earthbound alias on XL and soon got the scene jumping before being revealed as a Prodigy record and becoming the opening track of ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’. It’s high-speed rave, notable for its trippy video and 12” sleeve that features a solid silver ring made by beloved streetwear brand Stüssy.
Hectic synth buzzes and guitar riffs pack out ‘Voodoo People’, taken from the album ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’. It steps away from the wide-eyed rave music from their previous album, and moves into proper intense techno territory. It’s bold and boisterous and certainy tests your limits on the dancefloor. It got a feature on the silver screen in 1995 as it was included on the soundtrack for Angelina Jolie-starring film Hackers.
By The Prodigy standards, this is one of the smoother cuts in their canon, showing they have the range. There’s still crunching bass at its core, but this features alongside an almost hip house-meets-Daft Punk opening with sampled rap bars from Broken Glass’ ‘Style Of The Street’ and vocoder going tit for tat. A jaunty D Train sample then brings some irresistibly funky energy to the table. The music video is also a classic, with all manner of trippy visuals. “I wonder if Prodigy ever experimented with any type of psychedelics,” quips one YouTube commenter. Reckon they’re onto something.
Liam Howlett’s always had an ear for a hands-in-the-air sample and The Prodigy’s music is defined by how well he can deploy vocal snips and sound effects. ‘Warriors Dance’, from ‘Invaders Must Die’, features this Jeff Mills classic and this acid house banger. Both samples bring 90s rave energy to the mutant, new-skool hardcore of this track, which is ruff as fuck but spiked with The Prodigy’s love of a super-sweet melody. It’s Howlett’s time-honoured formula and comes with a predictable raucous music video.
‘SMACK MY BITCH UP’
You can’t imagine a situation these days where a track called ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ would get anywhere mainstream success. The ’90s was the ’90s, though, and The Prodigy’s 1997 track went to number one in a few countries around Europe, hit number one in the UK Dance Singles chart and reached number eight in the UK Singles chart, its sales achieving gold status. The band have always claimed the title has nothing to do with violence against women, instead saying the phrase ‘smack my bitch up’ refers to “doing anything intensely”. Electrifying and sizzling, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ opens ‘The Fat Of The Land’, setting the tone for the group’s album that’d turbo-charge them into global rave legends.
If there was any fear of The Prodigy losing intensity in the five year gap between releasing ‘Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned’ and 2009 album ‘Invaders Must Die’, lead single ‘Omen’ quickly answered those concerns: they hadn’t. The record’s title track had been made available as a free download the previous year, but ‘Omen’ arrived as the first commercial single to a wave of hype that shot it right to the top of the UK dance chart (and number four in the industry wide singles chart). The creepy glockenspiel melody combines with a multitude of haywire rave textures and rousing vocals to forge an ungodly banger.
‘EVERYBODY IN THE PLACE’
It doesn’t get more free or fun than this does it? “Everybody’s in the place, let’s go!” is a timeless rallying cry for ravers to get up and do their thing, away from society, the establishment, the law or whatever else is getting them down. This was the second single from ‘Experience’ and would have smashed the number one spot in the UK top 40 had it not been for the re-release of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ following the death of Freddie Mercury. What a time to be alive when this was tearing up the singles charts and bucolic English fields. The lead vocal sample also comes from no less than “the world’s first live hip hop album” and the video will definitely make you want one of those XL bombers.
‘Your Love’ is a pin-up for nostalgic rave euphoria. Repetitive piano chords bounce, mischievous synths growl and groan and breaks motor on without speed restrictions. Shouts of ‘Woohoooo’ and ‘Your Love’ make it hard not to think of anything other than a fuck-off soundsystem, a disused warehouse and a sea of sweaty bodies clad in dungarees and blowing neon whistles.
The era of absolutely peak Prodigy, with the release of ‘Breathe’ following ‘Firestarter’ marking the group’s second consecutive number one single – topping the singles charts is a feat they haven’t matched since. The breaks and bassline form a formidable foundation, above which Maxim’s lyrics urging “breathe with me” are a much-needed reminder as you’re sucked into the breathless intensity of this tune.
‘Firestarter’ doesn’t quite top our list but that’s not to say it isn’t the most notorious Prodigy song in terms of its iconic black and white music video that shows Keith Flint at the height of his powers or its anthemic vocals which, whether they like it or not, every dance music fan knows off by heart. It was also the band’s first number one single – what more is there to say, apart from the fact that the guitar lick sample is from Kim Deal’s band The Breeders. Timeless.
‘NO GOOD (START THE DANCE)’
Rave heaven comes to mind on The Prodigy’s ‘No Good (Start The Dance)’. It’s a stabbing synth onslaught, combined with ricocheting drum beats, intense bass and souped up vocal samples of Kelly Charles’ 1987 house track ‘You’re No Good For Me’. It’s so quick and relentless, it’s like one of those video games where the character’s on a one-way trip collecting prizes and dodging barriers, only this time they’re high on speed. Garage fans will obviously recognise the sample from Oxide & Neutrino’s ‘No Good 4 Me’ featuring Lisa Maffia.
The Prodigy’s debut single ‘Charly’ still holds up as one of their very best. It merges a juvenile voice sample and cartoon cat meowing with ‘Mentasm’-esque rave synths to raw and disorientating effect. As we mentioned earlier in this list, the year after the track’s release in 1992 this very magazine ran one of its most controversial covers, questioning ‘Did Charly kill rave?’ in light of the abundance of copycat kiddy-sample rave tracks that followed. This pissed off Liam Howlett who responded by burning a copy of the issue in the video for ‘Fire’. Eek. However, there was a happy ending of sorts. He later admitted that “The criticisms probably fuelled some of the music on ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’ – I stopped doing cartoon tunes”, and Mixmag’s former assistant editor Dom Phillips who wrote the condemning article also held his hands up for “[making] some mistakes in the way we covered the rave scene”. Glad that got smoothed over, and we’re happy to reaffirm the current Mixmag stance as being: ‘Charly’ is a classic.
‘OUT OF SPACE’
‘Out Of Space’ has it all – luxurious pads, roughneck drums, epic rave stabs and samples that are either epiphany-inducing or downright hilarious. It’s the perfect rave track, silly but deadly serious, and with plenty of suspense that gives way to pure, unadulterated release. It also has the best video from this era of The Prodigy, where they knocked out a series of surreal visuals featuring them and their mates dancing around and flipping off the establishment.