Friday, June 18, 2004


I first heard about M.I.A when it was announced on the Ninja Tune board that Diplo (of Hollertronix and Big Dada solo career semi-fame) would be remixing her upcoming single, "Sunshowers." So I dutifully checked it out, and was immediately struck by just how wonderfully bizarre her music is in a pop context, at least to American ears. M.I.A is a young British singer by way of Sri Lanka whose music mixes elements of dancehall ragga, bhangra, and Timbaland-style modern hip-hop production with her inimitable vocal style. This track, "Fire Fire," is presumably from her upcoming album (whose title I haven't been able to find), and is quite an interesting listen- with a (joking? half-serious?) violent ragga-esque lyrical hook ("Competition coming up now, load up, aim, fire fire, pop") along with shout-outs to Missy Elliot, Timbaland, the Beastie Boys and the Pixies. The lyrics have me wondering if they're intended as some kind of gender-bending subversion of violent, misogynist reggae stereotypes (similar to some of Tricky's early work with Martina Topley-Bird, specifically "Black Steel" and "Bad Dream"), or if I'm just overthinking what is in the end a damn good pop song. She's signed to XL Records, home of the Strokes, and with a good marketing push this could do really well in the UK. And with a bit of "OMG look female Dizzee Rascal!" hype in the US, we might actually get the album in a timely manner... Her debut single "Galang" is also worth hearing, partly because of the production (by one half of the Fat Truckers), but mostly because it's the most incredibly catchy thing to cross the Atlantic in ages.

M.I.A, "Fire Fire"

M.I.A (official website; has streamable mp3s* and a downloadable a capella mp3 of "Galang")

*...which can be recovered from your temporary internet files folder, if you're a poor Yank like me or possibly just really cheap, in which case shame on you. Also be sure to check out the Electronic Press Kit, which instead of the usual interview or whatever is a bizarre little video of M.I.A dancing like a spaz. Very odd, that.

And here's a completely unrelated mp3 that's been around a while but hasn't diminished in sheer badassery one bit: from the currently indisposed Boom Selection, a mash-up of Dizzee Rascal's "Fix Up, Look Sharp" with LFO's "Freak" by some fellow called Nicotinic. It turns out Dizzee's hiccuping flow meshes almost seamlessly with Mark Bell's brutal techno- who'd've thought it?

LFO vs. Dizzee Rascal, "Freak Up, Look Sharp"

Home Video - That You Might 10" (Warp)

There's been a bit of message board controversy in the past few weeks over Warp's latest signing, New York-based band Home Video. And, sure, Home Video seem an odd fit for Warp- they use mostly traditional guitar/bass/drums/keyboard instrumentation, have opened for the likes of Radio 4, and write pop songs with hooks and (gasp!) vocals. This isn't an entirely unprecedented move on Warp's part- Broadcast have found a home at Warp, and they've distributed Stereolab and Tortoise in the UK. But detractors point to Home Video, fellow new signee Gravenhurst, and trendy dancepunk act !!!, whom Warp are heavily promoting, as evidence that Sheffield's finest have sold out for potential mainstream success. This is, frankly, rubbish. Even leaving aside the questionable equation of success with artistic bankruptcy- after all, LFO's self-titled debut single became a top twenty hit in the UK during the label's early days, and few scenesters are calling for Mark Bell's head on a pike- this is just another manifestation of the cliqueishness unfortunately typical of much of the electronic scene. But internet drama and indie snobbery aside, how's the actual music?

Eh. Not bad. Home Video have a gloomy sound slightly reminescent of Brotherhood-era New Order, with a driving rhythm section and guitar melodies embellished with minimal electronics. "That You Might," the single's lead track, has a tense, insistent groove that should go down nicely in a club setting. Thankfully, Home Video don't ape the trendy post-punk of PiL and Gang of Four as blatantly as their peers in Radio 4 and The Rapture, leaning more toward New Order and the synthpop of early Human League. Unfortunately, their singer is a bit of a stumbling block- he's got a serviceable voice, but it's a dead ringer for Thom Yorke's. Coupled with his oblique, vaguely political lyrics, this can make for awkward listening. The B-side, "Dialogue Box," is especially bland. While it's pleasant enough, the lyrics are ultimately meaningless, and the song lacks direction and dynamics over its four-minute duration.

So, while it's hardly a masterpiece or likely hit single, "That You Might" is a good start for Home Video and definitely worth a few spins, if only for the A-side. I'm reserving further judgment until the band drops a full-length, hopefully sometime this year. And until then, will you people cut it out with the guitar hate? Please. You know who you are.


Home Video (band site with downloadable mp3 clips)
Buy this album (Warpmart)

Hello there

Hi. Regular updates are almost here, but in the meantime a quick word on what I hope to achieve with this blog: first and foremost, my goal is to expose people who would be otherwise unaware to what I think is the most exciting and stimulating new music, though I'll occasionally review older albums. And since I have little experience writing about music, this is also a handy forum for me to exercise my critical and writing skills, so feedback is welcome.

On occasion I may post single mp3s- either from reviewed albums, or just to circulate a track I feel is worthy of wider exposure. Anything I post will be either freely available on the web or from a release I own- and if you enjoy it, go out and buy it. Support the artist, and all that stuff. I won't be posting mp3s from Warp, Skam, or a few other labels unless the circumstances warrant it (such as a promotional-only track, or something otherwise unavailable), since Warp's Bleep service is available for streaming previews and electronic distribution of single tracks (and I think they've done an excellent, DRM-free job and it deserves support). Likewise, I'll be extremely careful with RIAA-distributed music, as I'm only a student and don't want to be sued into oblivion. If you represent an artist, label or other rights-holder and want me to remove a track, e-mail me and it'll be taken down promptly.

And with that out of the way, please enjoy the reviews and commentary.

Which aren't ready yet. So, um, go away.