M.I.A is finally back with a follow-up to ‘Bad Girls’ (released what seems aaaages ago). It’s called ‘Bring The Noize’ and it’s a discombobulating listen. “If I didn’t get it out right now I would definitely have exploded,” M.I.A told Zane Lowe on his Radio 1 show last night.

How can she possibly follow up ‘Bad Girls’, one of the best tracks of last year, dropped nonchalantly in January with a damn fine music video? By switching the energy up. ‘Bring The Noize’ is a high-tempo club anthem. M.I.A’s in rapid flow mode asserting herself with a chorus refrain of “bring the noise when we run upon them.”

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“Run upon” who? Possibly Interscope, the record label who sent back her finished album twice, telling her to “darken it up a bit”? Talking about the label earlier this year, she said “It’s like ‘We just built you up as the public enemy No. 1 and now you’re coming out with all this positive stuff.'”

It’s certainly a tense, dark listen that recalls ‘Arular’ and parts of ‘Kala’ more than ‘Maya’. ‘Bring The Noize’ producer Switch worked on both those albums. She’s also enrolled Ed Banger producer Surkin for the record, which is a good sign.

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It doesn’t sound as if the last 12 months in M.I.A Universe has been a breeze. She explained what’s been going on to Lowe last night:

It’s not easy. I keep finishing the record, handing it in, finishing the record. handing it in. I was literally going to start putting out records from my bedroom. This was my last stab at it. I’m going to hand it in and wait for it to go out the way albums go out. It’s not like me uploading my mixtape

There’s a helluva lot going on in this song. It’s almost four tracks in one, with a pretty, soft conclusion featuring vocals, crooning ‘nothing left to lose’. Does the chaos work? Lyrically, it’s strong. “Truth is like a rotten tooth, you gotta spit it out!” she erupts beginning before a hypnotically surreal verse about carpets and brooms and gasoline and shrooms. And it wouldn’t be an M.I.A song without a political swipe. “It’s not me and you, it’s the fucking banks!” she shrieks. Difficult to categorise, it reminds me a little of this track by Aphex Twin carbonated by rough frustration. Musically, synths that sound like the hoofs of a T-Rex, vocal samples cut up and chopped, timpani-style booms show she’s still a dynamo.

What do you think? Return to form?

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