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Review: Pop dissident MIA back with 'Matangi'

Monday - 11/4/2013, 2:51pm  ET

This CD cover image released by Interscope Records shows "Matangi," by M.I.A. (AP Photo/Interscope Records)

JAKE O'CONNELL
Associated Press

M.I.A, "Matangi" (Interscope)

Named after a ghetto Hindu goddess, M.I.A.'s fourth proper album pops with a relentless pounce and is filled with all the paradoxical imagery that the intro's title "Karmageddon" conjures.

On the call-to-arms title track she breaks it down as a tsunami of percussion mounts: "It's so simple/Get to the floor." Then sets it off simply by rhyming different places -- "Gambia/Namibia/Bali/Mali/Chile/Malawi" -- in her inimitable cadence.

But it's never simple with M.I.A. because in her words she's "Got a reputation/People see me as trouble." She plays vocal acrobat on "Bring The Noize," tabbing herself the "female Slick Rick" and unleashing spitfire bars like "Do you like my perfumes?/I made it at home with some gasoline and shrooms." Her playful side rhymes "giddy up" with "light the city up" and boards Boeings eating bananas. On "atTENTion" she flips the syllable "tent" 50 different ways.

Production by Switch, Hit-Boy, Danja and The Partysquad is just as enigmatic. Take "Double Bubble Trouble" where a trap intro gives way to a Rastafari sway before hitting up the dancehall and riding out on a beat Omar Souleyman might floss over. On other tracks, The Weeknd samples, intermittent "ohmmms" and slinking woofers flit through stutter-step rhythms and furrowed bass. Picture fire alarms going off in Trinidadian clubs.

Songs like "Lights" and "Come Walk With Me" are nice encapsulations of the record's split personality: part pop gold, part way out there. Even when M.I.A.'s feeling frisky it's nowhere near a quiet storm. She's either wondering "How come all this drama's still trending?" or making "love like origami," as guards set up outside.

At one point she mandates: "If you're gonna be me you need a manifesto." Based on the shrill stance here, hers might go something like this "Karmageddon line: "My words are my armor and you're about to meet your karma."


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