Album Review – M.I.A.


M.I.A. ‘ /\/\ /\ Y /\’ (XL)

Following on from 2005’s astounding debut Arular and 2007’s fantatsic Kala, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam returns with an amazing third album.

The first thing to say is that anyone who was lulled into M.I.A.’s world by the awesome ‘Paper Planes’ single, built around the riff from the Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ should not expect this record to be comprised of similar sounding tracks. The first single to be released from the album ‘Born Free’, with its’ accompanying video which was pulled by YouTube for graphic violence remains one of the most starting and best tracks to be released so far this year. It’s a controversial video that’s very much in your face and it’s an astonishing song, built around the riff from Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’ from their seminal 1977 debut. Suicide were too much for many of the punk audiences and this is typical of how several years into her career M.I.A. is on her own terms and still marching to her own tunes.

That’s not to say that M.I.A. is going to be away from the airwaves -‘XXXO’ is a tune that Lady GaGa or La Roux would kill for. The thng about M.I.A. is that she has the appeal and approach to genuinely distort and subvert the mainstream, perhaps in the way that Depeche Mode took the skewed take on the world of bands like Throbbing Gristle and into the top ten and the world’s stadia. You can, after all, surround the houses of parliament, or you can storm it by subversion.

There are certainly lyrics on here that will be deemed ‘NSFW’ (‘Not Safe For Work.’ Keep up). On ‘Steppin’ Up’ – a record that features a drill to, er, smashing effect M.I.A. informs us ‘You know who I am/I run this fucking club.’ Several times. This is an album that mixes hip-hop with electronica, as before, but with such a sonic ferocity that few albums could match this. Think the aforementioned Suicide debut or Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Million To Hold Us Back.

Lightning strikes for a third time on this album. M.I.A’s taking absolutely no prisoners and whilst I was unsure on my first listen I’m absolutely smitten on my third. Don’t be fooled by the magazine covers and chart positions, this lady has lost none of her firepower and I suspect if she’d ever appeared on a TV show with Russell Harty he would not dare have ignored her. Chances are, he can’t from the grave either…


M.I.A.’s website/M.I.A.’s myspace

Stream the album here

This isn’t the official video but you can hear the track in its’ glory here.

and if you still haven’t seen it, that controversial ‘Born Free’ video in full…

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

By the way, M.I.A.’s birthday is today (July 17). Happy Birthday!

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