Hey kids! Remember when electronic music was going to be the next big thing? No? Well, maybe that was more of an American-hype thing.
See, back in the mid-to-late-’90s, for about six months or so everyone thought electronic music was going to render rock ‘n’ roll utterly obsolete. Over here in the U.S., MTV started devoting disproportionately huge blocks of programming prime time to AMP, a show featuring techno videos (most of which resembled glowing test patterns and lava lamps and were probably hard to get regular advertising sponsors to support). Major labels practically sent out company-wide memos ordering A&R staffers to cease signing any bands that featured guitars in their lineups. Every alt-rock combo in America at the very least added a turntablist to its ranks. Soon-to-be-unemployed human guitarists and drummers shivered in their Doc Martens boots. It was a very interesting, and very odd, time in the music industry.
But even then, I had my doubts about the “electronica” craze (as it was megahyped in the music business at the time). I seriously only thought two acts of the genre had a decent shot at toppling the ’90s reigning guitar gods, and those two acts were Underworld and the Prodigy–mainly because they were GREAT LIVE BANDS with GREAT FRONTMEN. Sure, rucksack-toting, glowstick-wielding club kids hopped up on E would probably be happy to attend any sort of rave and dance the night away without so much as glancing sideways at the stage, but the rock fans would only be converted by a group that could put on a real show.
And for a while, it seemed like the Prodigy, one of the best live bands of any genre, might prevail, when their landmark Fat Of The Land surprisingly debuted on the U.S. album charts at number one. But unfortunately, they took seven long years to put out another album, and five additional, equally long years after that to release their latest, Invaders Must Die…and in the interim, guitar rock took over again.
But the Prodigy play head-rushingly, gob-smackingly good concerts that most guitar bands could only dream of pulling off. Case in point: last night, when the group invaded L.A.’s Hollywood Palladium and everyone in the venue partied like it was 1997:
And this August, Underworld are headlining L.A.’s massive Hardfest Summer dance party. So you know, perhaps “electronica” was just ahead of its time.