If Lightning Bolt is free jazz, no one was getting out of this set without paying dearly for it. The Rhode Island duo hit the Pitchfork stage midday Sunday in a peel of overdriven guitar shriek and crazed flurries of snare and tom-tom that magnetized the humid Chicago air and transformed the hazy afterimages still resonating from Beach House’s pleasantly forgettable set into spazzy molecules of fucked up oxygen. Pins and needles were made to float, and eardrums were sunburned. Did I mention that Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale was wearing a terrifying mask? His arms pounding savagely into his kit, his face obscured by this luchador death rictus, and then, halfway through this caterwaul, he begins to sing. Sure, it was more of a moan, scream, or reverbed yell. But that he was doing anything while still thoroughly murdering his drums on fast forward is profound. That’s some classic concentration.
Yes, she’s beautiful. And Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1, the saliva-inducing mix-taped preview to her forthcoming full-length, Arular, is seriously good. Granted. As far as potential world-shattering pop stars are concerned, we could do worse then the Sri-Lankan-by-way-of-London M.I.A., who’s been absolutely everywhere these days. But one mixtape does not an icon make, and everyone should be weary of heaping too much praise on our hero before she’s actually presented something deserving.
Piracy Funds Terrorism buzzes through your average club “bangers”—Diplo takes some old favorites for a second spin (Salt-n-Peppa’s “Push It”, Miss Elliott’s “Pass the Dutch”, Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop”) and M.I.A. effortlessly graces his works/re-works with enough hooks and choruses to put every other “diva” to shame.
But M.I.A., birthed into a family of political activism and parental revolutionaries, is sort of cheating us. When displaying her skill as an artist and writer in non-music related mediums, her intelligence and scope of world issues is apparent. It seems slightly disappointing then, given her background and the title of the tape itself, that she doesn’t use this inclusive effort created separate from the politics of the music industry to introduce some breadth of culture and conflict to a more mainstream audience—to take her place as “it” girl, and potentially far more, and try and spark change.
However, on second thought, that’s what guys like Bono do everyday and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who’s a little sick of him. Maybe M.I.A.’s contribution to world change is her ability to start a dance revolution. If that’s the case, for now, she’s succeeded.