[14] M.I.A., ‘Born Free’

M.I.A.

“This is just noise.” “It’s exciting.” “It’s echoing, it feels loud.” M.I.A. is used to eliciting mixed responses, and all of these come from the same five-year-old. A five-year-old who’s just taken nearly five years to realise I’m making a note of her reactions, and so gets a whole lot more vocal about them.

It is just noise too, but I’m still blinded by hype – perhaps it’s not just hype after all? – and lap it up over and over. M.I.A. takes Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’, turns it up until it creaks at the edges, then bombasts over the top of it, ever-relevant, ever-empty. With M.I.A., What seems uncompromising on the surface is always firmly anchored by a pure pop sensibility. It was the same, really, with Suicide, whose name fascinated me when I saw it for the first time in NME’s All Time 100 Albums, published in late 1985. I’d bought the paper as a taster, a candidate to replace Smash Hits which I felt I’d outgrown (ha!) – in the end, I went for Record Mirror because Mum thought NME was a bit rude, but that list burrowed into me, a primer for a new education.

[20] LCD Soundsystem, ‘Bye Bye Bayou’

IT STRUCK ME that 2009 wasn’t a sparkling year for singles – until I started trying to compile a Top 20. Then it was heartbreaking. So, regret and recriminations to Eels’ ‘That Look You Give That Guy’, Saint Etienne’s ‘Method Of Modern Love’ and Fuck Buttons’ ‘Surf Solar’. It hurt, but you had to go.

Let’s cheer up with the long-(well a couple of years at least)-awaited return of James Murphy and his so hip they’re actually hip and not just what hip people think is hip quasi-band LCD Soundsystem. Here he turns Suicide’s Alan Vega’s psychotic rockabilly screecher ‘Bye Bye Bayou’ into – let’s face it – Underworld’s ‘Mmm Skyscraper I Love You’ and the results are absorbing, bracing and head-nodding.

Junior was all primed for the year-end countdown, holding out for some Girls Aloud and sharpening her critical faculties (these are usually her shoulders; they’re the litmus test). The title amused – she and her sister changed it to “bye-bye, you” with plenty of waving – but then the bombshell: “I don’t like it”. Oh. Murphy rescued it with a zappy sound effect at the end which “makes my ears go crazy. And my legs. And my socks.” If he can crazify socks, he’ll go far.

Is that all right Bayou?