The Prodigy storms US charts with `subversive' hit

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The Independent Online
There is no accounting for taste when it comes to how British music will go down in the States. The anarchic dance act, The Prodigy, has gone to number one in the US album chart just eight days after releasing its controversial new album, The Fat of the Land.

At number two are the Spice Girls - surely the polar opposite in pop. Everything about The Prodigy, including the fact that its label, XL Recordings, had to asterix out one of its song titles, "Smack My Bitch Up" for fear of offending the American market, is the opposite of the fluffy, play- it-safe Spice Girls' style. Yet both bands are flourishing across the Atlantic. Chris Sharp, spokesman for The Prodigy, believes the two bands, the one subversive, the other sugary, have bowled over the Americans for "completely different reasons."

"The Spice Girls are a manufactured, five-girl band who produce sugary music. They are scantily clad women playing radio-friendly pop songs - which is something The Prodigy have never done. The Prodigy are a subversive, under- ground, hard, uncompromising, noisy, original techno-punk band which comes out of a vibrant youth company."

Gavin Reeve, editor of Smash Hits, had a different theory. Both The Prodigy and the Spice Girls are "larger-than-life, cartoon-like characters, bold and fun," he said. "They both dress up and sometimes silly hair is enough to break it somewhere."

With reference to The Prodigy's controversial refrain, "Change My Pitch Up, Smack My Bitch Up," Mr Sharp added: "One of the reasons the Prodigy is different to the Spice Girls is because they would put that kind of a sample in one of their songs. They are successful despite rather than because of their uncompromising attitude."

The four-boy band from Braintree, Essex, has already sold 250,000 copies of their new album (which is now number one in 22 different countries) in the US, thereby perpetuating the British domination of the US album charts started by The Spice Girls 20 weeks ago.

Their dance numbers such as "Breathe, Serial Thrilla" and "Firestarter" have nudged the gospel singer, Bob Carlisle's album, Butterfly Kisses, which includes songs entitled "On My Knees" and "Man of His Word", from their Billboard number one slot.

Mr Reeve believed that The Prodigy's concert in May made all the difference. "Going to a Prodigy concert is like going to a circus, a rock concert and a title fight all in one go.

"It's so showbiz, it's brilliant," he said.