M.I.A - AIM - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab


by Amy Putman Rating:6 Release Date:2016-09-09

I'm always excited about a new M.I.A release. 

The precise anticipation is similar to the kind you get before a second date.  You're not as nervous as the first because you know they like you at least enough to give you a second run-by, but there's still a tingle of uncertainty.  You get a flutter of excitement and a hint of possibility, without the dread of interview or awkwardness of small talk.

I suppose M.I.A wooed me well with her first album.  I was caught up in her rhythm; her surly rap and I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude that floated like a rainbow oil slick over waves of worldliness, at once exotic and recognisable; cheerful yet stridently rebellious; beautiful yet strong.  I was head over heels for Gulang.  I lived in Kala.  I loved and lost and loved again to her sound.

Which is why I'm so disappointed by AIM.  It's not a horrible disappointment; more like biting into a shop bought cake.  It's still cake, sure, but not as you remember your mother making.  It's a bit dry, a bit dusty; a bit too much icing and not enough love.

I'm not saying this album is sweet; it still has plenty of M.I.A's archetypal sass, but it is just a little bit lacklustre, and that is covered over with lyrics that feel a little bit self-conscious.  The sound is a bit homogenous.  A bit dry.  I wouldn't go quite as far as insipid, but certainly lacking the flavour of her previous work.

There are, of course, a couple of standout tracks that show just how awesome M.I.A can be; fly pirate, jump in, and A.M.P are all fierce as f, and musically interesting without betraying her low-production sound.  Bird song represents with her typical humour.  I'm sure more beauty will start to emerge with each play through, it's just that the bulk of this album is, at first glance, a little uninteresting.  I wouldn't quite say boring, but it doesn't grab you.  It's homogenous and flat.  It's lacking in fizz.  It's sepia toned instead of colour-saturated.  It's crumbs of vague flavour instead of a rich dish.

In conclusion, buy this album if you're already an M.I.A person, but don't expect it to change your life or rock your world.  It might offer some passing amusement, a couple of tunes, and some depth of fandom, but it isn't groundbreaking or special.  It's M.I.A sliding in hungover, or concocting last minute bullshit for a deadline; it's using her charm to pass, lazy style.  It's still much better than most things out there, it's just a dull note for someone so talented. 

It's like Bowie's lesser albums; not the greatest that artist can achieve, but still pretty damn good.  It just didn't quite meet my expectations but, then, my excitement was high.  That's a lot of pressure.  Nobody makes cake quite like your mother.  Maybe the first flush of love is always the highest.

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