In the wake of Trufflegate comes /\/\/\Y/\, a beguiling mess of a record that alternately draws you in and pushes you away with its waves of paranoia, soundclash, melody and rhythm. Lead single 'Born Free' was overshadowed by its video, but even ignoring the gingercide, its combination of Suicide's headachey synths and M.I.A.'s Rousseauian yelps made it one of the most shocking and brilliant singles of the past few years. Follow-up 'XXXO' is an equally thrilling slice of robopop that recalls Blackout-era Britney Spears as much as anyone else. For all their weirdness though, what those two tracks also have is a sense of tingly excitement and surprising warmth that too much of /\/\/\Y/\ seems to lack.
Producer Diplo has claimed that M.I.A. "didn't care" about how the album sounded, and to be honest, on certain tracks here this comes across. The vocal FX and cut-and-paste montages of 'Story To Be Told', 'Teqkilla' and 'Med And Feds' wear themselves out long before the songs end and elsewhere it feels like some fine pop music is getting swamped in needlessly tacked-on sounds. It's not just the noise that forces a distance, though, as the more considered 'Tell Me Why' and 'Space' slink by without leaving enough of an impression. However, alongside the singles there are a clutch of moments where it all comes together. 'Lovalot' lets M.I.A. remind us just how good a rapper she is, while 'It Takes A Muscle' and 'It Iz What It Iz' are dubby pop experiments with enough personality about them to hit their mark.
The minute-long opener 'The Message' sums up everything that's right and wrong with /\/\/\Y/\. A paranoid rant that probably explains the search engine-unfriendliness of the album title ("Our headphones connected to your iPhone / Your iPhone's connected to the internet / The internet's connected to the Google / The Google's connected to the government"), it's clever, complicated pop music that's very easy to appreciate but bloody hard work to actually enjoy. For all the lyrical obsession with identity and authenticity, M.I.A.'s personality struggles to get through. File under un-easy listening.