On June 30th, 1997, at the end of a tumultuous high school freshman year, I skipped class. Kinda. That’s something I never really did, and never really admitted to. The semester was pretty much over and it was English class, the teacher hated me anyway and I was pretty much kicked out already so I didn’t have much to worry about if I was late. I hopped on the subway and made it to the record store downtown right before it opened. There was no line or anything, no one else cared but me: The Prodigy’s The Fat of Land was being released and there was nothing else I could care for.
And now, 15 years later, XL is re-issuing the album. It’s not remastered or anything, but it comes with an extra EP of remixes which does include adolescent brohams Zedds Ded and Alvin Risk, not necessarily my top picks for either remix work or the current music zeitgeist, but all in all it makes sense: dubstep essentially owes its existence to the snotty genre-bending introduced by The Prodigy, even more so in its US and Dutch incarnations (I see you Noisia). Having The Glitch Mob was a fine move too, representing the more hip-hop side, and Major Lazer bringing the digital dancehall vibe. And then Baauer, because why the hell not: trap is essentially this generation’s Big Beat. And his take on Mindfields is alright, considering that the original wasn’t the most notable song on the album.
At the end of the day, only Major Lazer’s take on Smack My Bitch Up is worth my while. Don’t get me wrong, the other re-interpretations are good, but they’re just not transformative enough. Major Lazer’s track is splendid. Nearly innocuous but perfectly reworked into a differently paced track, with equal amounts of both acts’ identity perfectly displayed. They – literally – changed the pitch up, smacked the bitch up. AND as an added bonus I get to listen to this album again 15 years later/older, and I still love it, and I still know it by heart. I had bought all three singles on tape at HMV and I worked these suckers to the little foamy cube. Then I got the maxi single CDs. Duh.
Cool story bro: I had spent the summer of 1996 watching the Electronic Punks VHS and listening to Firestarter; I actually stayed up all night once to record the video which only played in the middle of the night on a couple of the free channels. I didn’t have cable but I had just had the internet, and I was posting at least once a week on two message boards: one that traded rap tapes, and one where we talked about The Prodigy and worshipped Liam Howlett. I lost my shit watching that Firestarter video, then that Breathe video, then threw a fit when no one would play the Smack My Bitch Up video.
Either your had seen it uncensored, or you hadn’t. I did, eventually. Before the age of the internet, it was still pretty easy to bootleg videos, just not in high def; Youtube, Great Descendent of your mom’s TV, still bans the uncensored version of the video. Also: I had no idea what that white powder thing was. Full disclosure and all. Anyway, The Fat of the Land means a lot to me, even though it’s not nearly as good or seminal as Music for the Jilted Generation (which has also been repressed for the occasion), now’s a pretty good time to hear it again and think about how old/young we got.- Gnou