For many heads, the Prodigy's Experience served as a gateway drug to deeper and more cerebral electronic music. That 1992 album captured and condensed the ultravivid rush of the e-levated rave euphoria, embodying the peak-time energy when hardcore was getting comfortable with an absurd level of happiness and the "Amen" and "Apache" breaks were achieving new heights of acceleration and convolution.
But who could maintain the pace of Experience's nonstop thrills? Who can dance for a dozen hours every weekend for years on end? Eventually fast-twitch muscles slacken, smiles become harder to maintain, pitched-up divas and hyperspeed piano riffs pall, and you seek more refined pleasures.
Of course, the Prodigy "matured" and diverged after Experience, coming with the more somber and varied Music for the Jilted Generation in 1995. To many fans, this is the Prodigy's peak. Creative mastermind Liam Howlett and his bandmates Keith Flint, Leeroy Thornhill, and Maxim Reality became politicized, turned elation into confrontation, and got funkier and less manic. "Voodoo People" and "Poison" most exhilaratingly bridge their earlier fidgetiness and their mid-period preference for funky breaks.
The Prodigy's next full-length, The Fat of the Land, shot them into the homes of millions of Americans, thanks to the pyromania-inspiring "Firestarter" and the feminist-baiting controversy over "Smack My Bitch Up" (whose title/chorus comes from Ultramagnetic MCs' "Give the Drummer Some"). The flagship title of the great 1997 "electronica" takeover (not), The Fat of the Land often comes across like Johnny Rotten fronting the Chemical Brothers—a brilliant idea that is only fleetingly realized on record.
The less said about 2004's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned and the new Invaders Must Die the better. They present the sad spectacle of a talented producer desperately, ham-fistedly grasping for commercial success. Invaders Must Die finds Howlett combining bombastic video-game electronica with mook rock geared for tweens. Not even Dave Grohl's drumming can save this one. Invaders is what happens when the ecstasy comedown leads to suicidal tendencies.
Only thing left for the Prodigy to do now is to link with Marilyn Manson and Insane Clown Posse for the "Ready, Suckers? We Are Going to SHOCK You!" tour. Oh, the agony.