I like noise. I can’t think of a better way to say it. Whether listing to HipGnosis Glitch.FM pod casts that features the sound of a computer in it’s death throes, the grinding distortion of Sleigh Bells, or the latest album from M.I.A., I can no longer deny it. Yes, I understand that to many it just sounds like noise, but I really, really like that noise.
I came to this conclusion after buying M.I.A.’s latest album “Maya”. Some of you may have been made at least passingly familiar with the album due to the controversy surrounding the first video released, “Born Free”. The video features nudity and graphic violence, so it may not be your visual cup of tea, but for those of you who feel you’ll be all right with this totally not safe for work video can view it here. With the visuals now out of the way, let’s focus on the sound of the album.
M.I.A., and the producers she worked with, created a fantastic sonic mash up that I would compare to N.E.R.D.’s awesome “Seeing Sounds” album, which I called a “Jackson Pollack painting pressed onto a disc.” Thumping bass, industrial noise, distorted voices, glitch style hiccups, danceable reggae, melodic vocals, and more, converge into one album; sometimes one song. I find it impressive, inventive, and fearless.
Lyrically it’s obvious M.I.A. has information politics on the mind. With lyrics like, “I licked envelopes, wrote a letter to the pope. He never gave me rope, in the times I couldn’t cope. They cleaned up the dope and censored my scope. The writing on the walls been beaten to a pulp. All I ever wanted was my story to be told,” from the song “Story to be Told”. Also “Who says all the rules are made by rulers? We break ‘em and breakin’ their computers. I ain’t buying no more from the looters who try to out school us,” from the track “Meds and Feds”.
A personal favorite from the album, “Lovalot”, says, “I really love a lot, but I fight the ones who fight me.” The way M.I.A. delivers the line “I really love a lot” is very fluid, so the words kind of run together. At first I thought she was saying, “I really love the law, but I fight the ones who fight me,” which I was taking as a political message of how the law can still leave average citizens vulnerable. Once I learned it was “I really love a lot”, I thought, well that’s better. Who doesn’t love the idea of a gentle soul that will still fight when pressed? (As Hyde from “That 70’s Show” would say, “Where Zen end, ass kicking begins.”) However, Kitty Empire of “The Observer” summed the track up best with, “So you may not agree that the CIA controls Google, as intro track ‘The Message’ posits. You might not wonder what went on in the mind of Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, the Russian teenager who bombed Moscow’s tube system to vindicate the death of her husband, an Islamic militant. But MIA does, and her ‘Lovalot’ ponders her inner world with a mixture of nonsense rhyme, militant posturing and pop-cultural free-flow; her London glottal stop mischievously turns ‘I love a lot’ into ‘I love Allah’.”
M.I.A. could have sat back and done a whole album of “Paper Planes” (the song from her previous album “Kala” that brought her mainstream recognition) and made a fortune off stoner college kids who seemed to have overlooked such buzz killing lyrics as “Some, some, some, I some I murder. Some, I some, I let go.” Whoa to the shopper expecting a catchy, pop friendly album, because M.I.A.’s album is the equivalent of a boot to the throat of that listener….but you can dance to it.