Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

M.I.A.: Kala [Interscope, 2007]
Less catchy and novel than 2005's Arular, this just gets stronger and more intelligent over time--compared to Arular, and also to Arcade Fire's Neon Bible or Radiohead's In Rainbows or, I don't know, Jay-Z's American Gangster. Where so many bands who consider tunes beneath them compensate with piddling portions of texture or structure, this record is full of things to listen to: zooms and scrapes and grunts and whistles and kiddie voices and animal cries, weird Asian drums and horns, down-home melodica and didgeridoo. Also, of course, bass bass bass--guitar, drum, whatever. The songs imagine and recreate an unbowed international underclass that proves how smart it is just by stating its business, which includes taking your money. The lyrics far cannier politically than those on Arular. But their proof is in the music. A+