Interscope, 2007


REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove


What the hell?

I asked this question a few times when I first listened to Kala. “Bamboo Bunga” is a wild way to start an album. Hearing lyrics from The Modern Lovers (“Roadrunner”) on a dance track was strange. I have no idea what M.I.A. is really saying, but the song is insane and sexed up. Perhaps label me a pervert, but I’m guessing “Bamboo Banga” refers to something phallic.

“Bird Flu” is next and even loonier than “Bamboo Banga.” M.I.A. takes on xenophobes and the mainstream music industry in this track before equating her music to bird flu you’re going to catch. Sonically, the track relies on demented bird calls and a pulverizing beat. Like “Bamboo Banga,” “Bird Flu” is a great pop song, provided you can get over how it hits you the first time. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Why are these songs so wacky? “It was built like in slices,” M.I.A. told Karmaloop TV. She recorded the beats in India, the various sounds in Trinidad, and the vocals in other locations. “It was a different way of doing an album, and I found it – I did find it confusing. I was a bit, I couldn’t control it because it was just my circumstance, you know?”

It is a confusing album. But the more I listen to it, the more it makes sense from a pop angle – thanks in part to the fun wordplay. I hate to cite “Paper Planes” because it’s an obvious talking point (featured in the king of obvious movies, Slumdog Millionaire), but this simple phrasing is as fun as any lyric from 2000’s pop: “I fly like paper, get high like planes.” And the likeability of the song goes beyond wordplay. Little things add up: the finger snap beat; the abrupt, funny, and catchy gunshots; the screeching guitar line. 

The album conveys that M.I.A. knows how to make sense out of her world. She’s British with a Sri Lankan heritage, and apparently, not everyone in the United States has treated her with respect (unfathomable!). Hell, MTV and Late Show With David Letterman censored the gunshots in “Paper Planes.” Why? Would viewers not catch on that M.I.A. is joking about xenophobic perceptions? Does the U.S. mainstream completely lack a sense of humor or dignity? I suppose if the song was, I don’t know, about killing brown people in the Middle East, gunshots would be acceptable. Maybe throw in a nuclear explosion!

Alright, I promise that won’t happen again. Bottom line is I’ve already said too much about Kala. I don’t want to take away the surprising aspect of the record. Listen to it, dance to it, whatever. It just demands to be discovered.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Jedediah Pressgrove and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope, and is used for informational purposes only.