XL Recordings - 2005 – 42 minutes
Every now and then a record pops up that makes reviewing a pleasure.
I have made some small sacrifices for this cause, slogging my way through the Nelly double albums and Bad Boy Inc compilations to uncover the glittering jewels that are so cunningly hidden in the festering rubbish tip of contemporary music.
I first came across MIA in an obscure record shop in New York, where her 'Piracy Funds Terrorism' collaboration with DJ/producer Diplo was sitting on the counter, enticingly priced at $10 (I hadn't realised that it's available online as a free download, check it out).
The crazed melange of ragga, hip-hop, Brazilian baile funk, Missy Elliott, Cutty Ranks and The Bangles whetted the appetite for her debut album proper.
Soon 'Arular' was getting all the right hype in all the right places. It helped that Maya Arulpragasam (MIA's original name) was photogenic, without being an over-styled diva. Her Sri Lankan heritage was a touch of the exotic and her art school and Britpop connections can't have hurt either.
Now that 'Arular' is here at last, it's a relief to say that it's different, fresh and new. It is funky without being clichéd, poppy without being cloying, credible but not painfully hip.
Credibility hasn't stopped MIA making brilliantly accessible music. The sound is based on the syncopated digital beat of dancehall, with a hint of UK hip-hop, a smattering of superior pop and a droplet of Brazilian ghetto funk. The singalong strut of 'Sunshowers' with its vocal melody and thumping backbeats, the bizarre but addictive yelping on 'Ten Dollar' and the hypnotic
nonsense of 'Galang' are standouts, but there's not much filler on 'Arular's all too brief 42 minutes.
The result is an upbeat, edgy, fun record that both you and your little sister will like.
Tracklisting: Banana Skit - Pull Up the People - Bucky Done Gun - Sunshowers - Fire Fire - Dash the Curry - Amazon - Bingo - Hombre - One for the Head Skit - Ten Dollar - Uraqt - Galang