M.I.A.'s 2005 debut, Arular, struck just the right balance of radical politics, innovative production and round-the-way appeal for critics and clubgoers to go apeshit, and follow-up Kala is likewise a party record with a point of view. M.I.A. cowrote every song, and coproduced most with help from boyfriend Diplo, London "dirty house" DJ Switch, Baltimore Club kingpin Blaqstarr and the ubiquitous Timbaland. Of Kala's myriad sounds, samples and styles, the oddest may be M.I.A.'s sudden affinity for college rock: Trancelike "Bamboo Banga" quotes the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" and drops a sly Duran Duran reference, while "$20," which juxtaposes hip-hop materialism and Third World poverty (a recurring theme), distorts the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" into something that resembles a chopped and screwed remix of New Order's "Blue Monday." M.I.A. just wants some lovin' on "Boyz" and the string-saturated, disco-drenched, utterly irresistible Bollywood cover "Jimmy," but she can be serious too. "Bird Flu," a clattering, literally squawking drum jam, makes pointed reference to her ongoing difficulties with U.S. Customs, as does the dubby "Paper Planes," which borrows its chorus from Wrecks-n-Effect's "Rump Shaker" — and substitutes gunshots and a cash register for "zooma zoom zoom and a boom boom." Come to think of it, those two sound effects sum M.I.A., and Kala, up perfectly.
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