M.I.A. - Arular - Review
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critics' view

This eagerly awaited debut from M.I.A. is as confrontational as marmite, and looks set to be one of the albums of the year.

The music is peppered with gunshot beats and juddering giger counter bass. The lyrics are equally up front, flavoured by bombs, terrorism, kidnap and revolution. 'Load up, aim, fire, fire, bo!' shrieks Maya Arulpragasam, the 28 year old mc who is M.I.A. Given her background this full clip aggression isn't surprising. She spent her early youth in Sri Lanka, the daughter of a Tamil insurgent, relocated to the UK as a refugee, and ended up in a South London council estate.

Some aren't convinced, seeing the media as hyping up the album because of her exotic past. Those who love her find her songs as poetic an autobiography of a troubled life as Dizzee Rascal's Boy In Da Corner.

Another point of contention is the beats. Arular has been criticised of being a mere pastiche of dancehall, electro, hip hop and Rio-baile funk (the in your face, hook laden booty bashing party music of the Brazilian Favelas). But really this is what urban music should be; a concoction of sounds that could only be cooked up in the crucible ofa multi-cultural city. Purity equals snobbery in my book. Arular is a massive success because it is crammed with so much sonic variety.

Picks are as follows: The Diplo produced "Bucky Done Gone", with its marching band trumpet, big bass drum and frantic eighties back beat; the achingly beautiful "Sunshowers" with its unsettling, unusual but ooh-so alluring vo-coded harmonies; and, of course, Galang, the underground smash of 2004 that started it all.

M.I.A. stands for both Missing In Action and Missing In Acton. You're going to be hearing a lot more from this fierce new talent.

Ruth Jamieson
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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