Sri Lankan-born, London-based Maya Arulpragasam is MIA. Her political debut Arular is an emotional and aggressive statement (and it’s also a lot of fun). Clocking in at just over 38 minutes it flies and spins with its inventive electro Bhangra beats and joyful punk spirit. This is truly what world music should be. You can be a comfy cozy, well-informed westerner or a nervous kid in the Third World streets and totally get these energetic multilingual rants. The tunes aren’t there to soothe as you sip your Rainforest Blend coffee or do the downward dog.
The key element? The sexy tribal rhythms have bite. They sting. And if any album can get you off that ass and dance, this one can. Arulpragasam and DJ Diplo keep all the emotions sweating bullets in the mighty urban sound collages. Producers Ross Orton (The Fat Truckers), Steve Mackey (Pulp) and Richard X keep the verbal unrest in focus. Even when the raga beats stir the loins, you still know the world is fucked up. It’s Bow Wow Wow with its Clash thinking cap on.
Arulpragasam’s papa was a Tamil Tiger revolutionary. Arular was her pop’s nickname by the guerilla rebel faction he cofounded in Sri Lanka, adding a dimension to the already powerful “Bucky Done Gun.” Sampled trumpets blare as the electro rat-a-tat-tat synth pistols shoot (throughout the album the electro pops always have a violent edge). “Time to spit new shit/ I’m rocking on this new bit/ I’m hot now you’ll see/ I’ll fight you just to get peace.”
“Sunshowers” almost has a comforting Neneh Cherry feel. Arulpragasam’s cute tough girl screams lessen as she whispers her sweet little threats. “Sunshowers that fall on my troubles are over you my baby/ And some showers I’ll be aiming at you/ Cos I’m watching you baby.”
“Galang” kicks ass! An extremely powerful thought-provoking dance tune with an infectious silly chorus. It won’t let you go. When Arulpragasam tells you to “get down,” sure she wants you to shake your moneymaker but she’s also informing you that in some areas of this world, you must get down or the bullets will kill. She’s the bomb. Literally.
Loudon Wainwright III seems a selfish shit-disturbing father. He wrote a song called “I’d Rather Be Lonely.” His daughter Martha Wainwright always felt sorry for the woman in the song. The line, “Every time I see you cry/ You’re just a clone/ Of every woman I know,” always hit her. Once she was on tour with her dad and while performing onstage he told the crowd,” I wrote this song about my daughter” and proceeded to sing “I’d Rather Be Lonely.” Of the incident she recently told The Guardian newspaper, “He really crossed the line there.”
On her modern folksy self-titled debut, Wainwright gets back at dear old dad (like bro Rufus’s “Dinner At Eight” and mom Kate’s “Go Leave”) with the upfront courageous single “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.” Wainwright’s voice is battered, brittle and anxiety-ridden as she confronts her father with her truths. It’s so in the moment as her smoky rasp bleeds the words through a melody that plays with Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Even her phrasing is Dylan-esque. She loves to fight the song. She gains strength from her fiery words. “I will not pretend/ I will not put on a smile/ I will not say I’m all right for you.”
On “Far Away,” things are much more melancholy as Wainwright’s charming voice tenderly caresses the eerie moodiness. “I have no children/ I have no husband/ I have no reason to be alive/ Oh, give me one,” she sings.
Produced by Wainwright and Brad Albetta, the album has a sharp wit about it. The melodies are as pretty as (spiked) punch. They have bohemian patchouli headiness to them. But the words aren’t daydreaming on pillows. Wainwright has emotions to share and questions to ponder. It plays like Mary Margaret O’Hara doing Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. Glorious.
XL Recordings. $19.
Maple Music Recordings. $15.