As the Essex gang gear up to headline a slew of summer festivals including Reading & Leeds, we donned our crash helmets to revisit their 10 biggest tunes.
10 ‘Smack My Bitch Up’
Forget the shock-tactic video: this grimly ironic single is an anthem in its own right, with wind-tunnel beats and pyrotechnic synths that open a sonic wormhole to the gutter of the ‘90s.
9 ‘Run with the Wolves’
‘Invaders Must Die’ caught some flak for failing to expand the band’s sound, but this single – featuring one Dave Grohl on drums – does the job nicely. Over four metal-laced minutes, it drives its thud’n’bass beat into your cranium like a cattle-prod, racing through hair-pin bends with breakneck velocity. Bring your helmet.
8 ‘Wild Frontier’
New Prodigy album ‘The Day is My Enemy’ isn’t short of bangers, turning the power-tool racket of their earlier stuff into a rave construction site. ‘Wild Frontier’ reminds you just how much nu-ravers like Klaxons owed to the ‘90s hell-raisers.
7 ‘No Good (Start the Dance)’
This one’s video had the honour of closing NME TV’s last transmission, but we’re not biased: the 1994 single is a peach, throwing a euphoric Kelly Charles sample into its sonic Hadron Collider, before tumbling into hectic breakbeats that sound like keyboards and cutlery being churned up in a hyperspeed cement mixer.
A precursor to the (even more) furious aggression of ‘The Day is my Enemy’, ‘Omen’ is the highlight of 2009’s ‘Invaders Must Die’, the kind of incendiary firecracker you suspect might transpire if Hudson Mohawke hopped in a spaceship with Calvin Harris and set sights on the pop charts.
5 ‘Ibiza (featuring Jason Williamson)’
Whoever saw the potential here deserves the heartiest of pints, for this Prodigy-Sleaford Mods pair-up finds the perfect equilibrium between breakbeats and bile. Williamson yells righteous barbs against the pseudo-riche – “Private jet, personal flyer/ All Danny, all fucking Dyer” – with enough fire in his belly to set the White Island ablaze in a breath.
An unlikely Top 3 hit for the Essex boys, their debut single stands among their most deranged dancefloor experiments, intercutting helter-skelter synths with a gurny vocal that sounds like either a cat convinced it’s a man or vice-versa. Mad genius.
Hot on the heels of ‘Firestarter’, this 1996 single blazes into sharp peaks and sudden drops like a carnival rollercoaster whose operator fell asleep at the controls. If its velocity isn’t enough to induce a heart attack, check the strobing, squirm-inducing video, complete with its very own crocodile cameo.
The Prodigy’s signature tune takes their manic aggression and intensifies it tenfold, making Liam Howlett’s enthusiasm for arson sound mildly less sociopathic than his proclivity for musical anarchy. That it hit Number 1 (and became the 14th best-selling single of ‘96) is testament to its distillation of depravity.
1 ‘Out of Space’
Since its 1992 release, ‘Out of Space’ has soundtracked enough campfire piss-ups, living room raves and nostalgic headphone sessions to be the definitive heads’ anthem. Anchored by the hook from Max Romeo’s Lee Perry-produced ‘Chase the Devil’, its collage of haywire synths and batshit samples cranks open your skull and sprinkles in the magic powder.