Sunday, 5 February 2012

Jack White and M.I.A.: haven't we been spoiled this fortnight?

When I woke up last Monday with a crick in my neck, running late and generally feeling rotten little did I know that on that day, 30 January 2012, Zane Lowe was going to prove himself yet again to be the greatest DJ on Radio 1 (in musical terms rather than reputatonial or presentational) at the moment by premiering new songs by two living legends of the last decade or so: Jack White and M.I.A.
From The White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather, Jack White has just released Love Interruption - the first ever solo project we've heard ahead of his Blunderbuss album out of 23rd April. It's him! Just him; not Jack and Meg doing what he said sounded like a cover of a Jack White song, not a song by him, a song by Alison, a song by Dean and a song by Jack Lawrence - Love Interruprion is just Jack (White not Allsopp that is).

Then with that freedom comes a great new sound. Instead of starting off with a party per usual with anything that contains the mildest traces of Jack White, Love Interruption is one mega-beauty. Stripped back, acoustic guitar, electric piano and echoey vocals, lyrics so honest, laid out and vulnerable they make Jack sound virtually naked.

One can only wonder what love is so bitter it can only be described as "stick a knife inside me," "murder my own mother" and "leave me dying on the ground." There are jollier songs on the Blunderbuss record (there's jollier songs on R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People!) but for now we have only have the moving Love Interruption and anticipation for more to come.

The complete polar opposite of JW's woeful chill, the queen of UK pop M.I.A. returned with a club smash in Bad Girls. I'll admit that when I first heard it I thought it was way too repetitive and a bit basic, especially for M.I.A. standards, but as I heard it more and more it slowly grew on me to the stage that I now rave along whenever she's "banging on the radio." What a tune.

M.I.A.'s got swag people. She's practically bathing in a pool of attitude. To use Maya's own car analogies "Shift gear, automatic, damned if I do. Who's gonna stop me when I'm coming through?" Bad Girls has all the cheek of Jessie J's Do It Like A Dude yet maintains that trademark M.I.A. "live fast, die young, blow you with a bang" extra deepness that transforms her from a generic Ford Fiesta to a Bugatti Veyron. Should goddess Madonna have hand picked her to perform at this year's Super Bowl? Oh yeah!

But what if I told you there was a song with more elegance that Jack White yet more popness than M.I.A.? Of the Ed Sheeran and Benjamin Francis Leftwich ilk, No One Lied by the underrated singer/guitarist is full to burst with breath-taking beauty. I'm not even going to check whether that's one take or not because such imperfection but at the same time perfection couldn't be achieved any other way.

From the one-in-a-million siren at the beginning to the final guitar strum this is a compelling listen that I think should go down in history as one of the most intimate live performances in the past few years. Sometimes a like to jabber on about songs and other times I prefer to let the music speak for itself. Heaven is a place, God is a man, He does many miraculous things. This is one of them...

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