We were originally going to distribute this review via Wikileaks, but quickly decided that M.I.A. isn’t someone we’d like to piss off any time soon. The fiery Sri Lankan has been in the news for everything but her music these days; with Matangi she’s back with her first proper full-length in ages, barring the oddball VICKI LEEKX mixtape.
It’s also the first album M.I.A. has released since becoming a mother. Whether changing nappies (or fleeing custody battles) allows you to take a break from conspiracy theories is something we won’t know, but it could be a contributing reason to young Maya emerging from the web-jungle of her last album and bringing the sound back to something closer to Kala.
Karmageddon, Warriors and title track Matangi both bring in the good ol’ ‘effnic’ samples, the latter kicking off very similarly to her seminal hit Boys, and they’re all the better for it. M.I.A. knows how to plunder her cultural heritage without it ever sounding token (or, God help us, early Jay Sean) – a couple of tracks kick off with a chant of ‘Om’, a spiritual gateway, a moment’s peace before a barrage of caustic raps. It works brilliantly.
The joy of Matangi also comes from the fact that it straddles both the eccentric and the commercial; there are some solid singles here. Bad Girls and Come Walk With Me we’re already familiar with, but there’s a lot to be mined from last week’s Y.A.L.A. and the standout sexcellent (sorry) Sexodus featuring The Weeknd. Personally, we’d like to see the hugely enjoyable Double Bubble Trouble pop up somewhere, but it’s unlikely we’ll see something with such madcap production in the charts any time soon.
Of course, M.I.A. is still guilty of being a bit too worthy at times, almost embarrassingly so (“poor people should be on ghetto-gram”). But for all the hype and drama, Matangi comes out fighting – it’s a solid, memorable and wholly idiosyncratic album that should keep M.I.A. in our minds for all the right reasons.