There are moments during MAYA when it seems like M.I.A.'s next move might involve walking into a laundromat, filling the dryers with bricks and silverware, pulling the fire alarm, blaring a drop-forge beat from a tinny boombox, and recording the result. Much of the singer’s third album is situated to prove, if anything, that motherhood and a comfortable living situation have not softened her. She does so with a load of mostly unorganized noise produced alongside Switch, Blaqstarr, Rusko, Diplo, John Hill, and Derek E. Miller. Clever-clever wordplay, assaultive sound effects, and ear-fatiguing beats are amplified at the expense of singalong hooks and swinging, energizing rhythms. “Steppin Up,” heavy with assorted needling drills and buzzing guitar, anchored by stilted percussion, could be a cover of a Flight of the Conchords M.I.A. parody: “I light up like a genie and I blow up on the song/Rub-a-dub a-dub dub, rub-a-dub a-dub dub/Aladdin, no kiddin’, boy I need a rub.” Sift through the stray wheezing, piercing, and squawking of “Tekqilla,” and you’ll hear a reference to her son’s father (the son of the heir to the Seagram’s fortune) with “When I met Seagram’s, sent Chivas down my spine.” The most willfully grating track, “Meds and Feds,” carries an oppressive industrial beat, liberally echoed handclaps, yet more cheap guitar buzz, and her most XTRMNTR-era Primal Scream-like lyrics (“While we become workers, you become golfers -- the modern day coppers”). All that said, there is a brilliant -- if brief -- EP in here. “Born Free,” owing much to Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” is, nonetheless, one of M.I.A.'s most creative, instantly satisfying songs. It rapidly works itself into a blitz of relentless drums, prodding keyboards, and a vocal that is elatedly baleful and anthemic. “Lovalot,” a sinister production, is made all the more riveting with M.I.A.'s droning, slippery delivery, in which “Obama” can be heard as “a bomber” and “love a lot” can be heard as “love Allah.” While it is the quietest song on the album, it is also one of the most tense and unsettling of the lot, demonstrating that M.I.A. really does not need all that cluttered bluster.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman