100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #48 The Prodigy – Firestarter

Released : 1996

On the face of it mid-90’s Britain was doing just fine. We were feeling good about ourselves; the nation was waiting for the opportunity to put an end John Major’s lame duck government and bring down the curtain on decades of Tory malfeasance, five years had passed since the end of the first Gulf War and the signing of the Good Friday agreement had finally brought and end to bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

And yet. It’s a sure sign when the soon-to-be establishment is embracing the arts with such warmth and enthusiasm that something is wrong; it’s outliers are meant to provoke, to shock, to make you switch off. The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett had seen enough of rave’s commodification into big club culture to know it was largely fake, opportunistic and too cosy, famously telling one journalist he hoped it’s Ibizan epicentre was bombed. Maybe that was a reaction to being accused of partially cartoonifying it themselves via their early material, but wherever the truth lay he knew in 1996 that their new album The Fat of The Land was going to grab a complacent society by it’s throat and choke.

Firestarter was it’s beserker. Sampling The Breeders and The Art of Noise, it was the opposite of safe, a thunderous kick drum and weird, radio static loops making the listener scared to look over their shoulder. In the iconic video Keith Flint looked more like The Joker than any screen portrayal had ever captured and the country’s prime time sofas were appalled by it’s aggressively stylised claustrophobia. Slapped, dazzled and deafened, finally we’d never had it so good.