Historically, there hasn’t been a lot of effective (let
alone fun) political pop music produced in the past half-century.
These days, bands might drop the occasional Hail to the
Thief or Louden Up Now, but few groups can combine
politics and pop in a way that’s inventive, free and fun. Le
Tigre is one of those groups, a trio whose activist electro-pop
will make you think while shaking your ass on the dance floor.
Headed by original Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna, former leader of
early ‘90s punk progenitors Bikini Kill, Le Tigre have been
recording punk-inspired dance albums since 1999. Hanna joined with
zinester Johanna Fateman and erstwhile member Sadie Benning to form
a backing band for her DIY electro-experimentation as Julie Ruin.
Before recording their second album, Benning was replaced by the
mustachioed J.D. Samson, a former member of the troupe Dykes Can
Their debut, the self-titled Le Tigre, contained
experimental, poppy and political tracks that were, above all else,
danceable as hell; its opener, “Deceptacon,” captures
listeners’ minds with the tenacity of aural cocaine. Since
then, Le Tigre haven’t quite recreated the candy-coated dance
awesomeness of their debut, but they’ve sharpened their
ability to meld politics and pop without losing their message or
boring their audience. On This Island, Le Tigre found the
right formula to make a great political dance-pop album.
If “Deceptacon” was Le Tigre’s absolute
best track, that distinction on This Island goes to future
electroclash classic “After Dark.” Hanna sings
syncopations over a bouncy disco beat whose chorus is perfectly
punctuated with echoing synth beeps.
While “Don’t Drink Poison” and the Ric
Ocasek-produced “Tell You Now” both feature a liberal
(ha!) sprinkling of gender-related rhetoric, it’s J.D. and
Johanna in the embarrassingly named (but otherwise kickass)
“Nanny Nanny Boo Boo” who dole out their first
confident dose of gender politics. They volley back and forth:
“We’re like boys, just ask her, dicks done by C.P.
Caster … I do it every night / she does it in her man
And “All night we’ve been talking to liars …
It’s alright, man, it’s just an interview /
You’ll never get it, I guess this shit is too new,”
they jeer at outsiders. Later, on “Viz” J.D. describes
the freedom of dancing. “ I find another butch … We
put our hands / in the crowd / and over and over we jump up and
down … They call it coolness, and we call it visibility /
They call it way too rowdy, and we call it finally free.”
“New Kicks” combines news broadcast, peace rally and
dance anthem with an inventive beat, an infectious chorus and sound
bites (taken from Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton, Ossie Davis and
others). They may be preaching, but this sure doesn’t sound
like a sermon.
From the grittier electro-punk aesthetic of “This
Island” to their cover of the Pointer Sisters’
“I’m So Excited,” Le Tigre prove that despite
their move from Mr. Lady Records to Universal, they’ve
maintained their street cred and then some. If you want music for
your next party, polticial rhetoric or a galvanizing combination of
the two, This Island won’t disappoint.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars