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MUSIC REVIEW: Taking cues from all over, M.I.A. is ready to pounce

M.I.A. "Kal" 4 stars (out of 5)

Now that America has taken Brit bad girls Lily Allen and, especially, Amy Winehouse to its bosom, maybe it might warm to the most radical of them all: M.I.A., born Maya Arulpragasam, the daughter of Sri Lankan refugees who fled their homeland over politics.

On her 2005 debut, "Arular," M.I.A. played around with `80s American hip-hop and British "grime" - an industrial brand of exceedingly colloquial, nearly indecipherable English rap - with sass and style. M.I.A. builds on that foundation with the explosive, cacophonous "Kala," a disc that's the sonic equivalent of being shoved out of a speeding car into the middle of an anarchic street market somewhere within shouting distance of the equator.

The first three tracks - "Bamboo Banga," Birdflu" and "Boyz" - are noise and chaos connected by groove. They are less songs than riots set to rhythm. This is the music that must be banging inside

Jason Bourne's head as he careens around the globe with bad guys hot in pursuit.

It's not until "Jimmy," with its lo-fi electro beat married with swirling Bollywood string effects, that M.I.A. comes anywhere close to traditional pop. But then it's back aboard the hot, overcrowded musical bus, where what sounds like Tuvan throat-singing smashes up against a New Order riff ("20 Dollar"), Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo locks in with a skeletal hip-hop beat ("Mango Pickle Down River"), and gun sounds send you ducking and dancing through "World Town" and "Paper Planes."

M.I.A.'s most obvious concession to U.S. sensibilities is the addition of the overexposed Timbaland on "Come Around." But he's an unnecessary addition. Americans will either like M.I.A. or wait until Fergie, Gwen or Christina come up with diluted versions of her world-beating style.

Download this: "Birdflu"

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