Le Tigre - Le Tigre - Review
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critics' view

Kathleen Hanna is best known as the former leader of Bikini Kill, the band that defined the early '90s riot-grrl movement. When Bikini Kill formed in the late '80s, their mix of catchy punk tunes and hard-hitting politics were a timely wake-up call to the male-dominated alternative rock scene in the Pacific Northwest, positioning the band as icons and role models to girls across the country. But cultural climates change quickly and alarms are intended to wake people up, not to go off all day. Once the shock of the new of the riot-grrl movement wore thin, few were listening short of riot-grrls themselves.

Rather than continuing to preach to the choir, Hanna has called off mass in favor of a dance party. As Le Tigre, she teams up with fanzine producer Johanna Fateman and independent video and filmmaker Sadie Benning.

RECIPE FOR LE TIGRE POP-CRACK:

1. Take basic garage rock song structures that make you want to sing along and update them with some pop, punk, and surf-guitar. Think Slits, Raincoats, and later Bikini Kill in a blender.

2. Layer the songs with lots of samples to create atmospheres that will inevitably be described as "cinematic."

3. Frost the songs with hip-hop-infused drum machines, old-school electronics and new wave keyboards.

These songs are addictive. They will be the soundtrack to kitchen dance parties in every house this album enters. Le Tigre brought their multimedia dance party to Providence, Rhode Island a few weeks ago and I went to buy the album a few days later. I needed the crack, and I wasn't alone. Right now, Le Tigre is the Amazon.com's #2 best-selling album to University Students in Rhode Island!

The lyrics are less didactic than Bikini Kill's and are geared for the repeated listens these well-crafted pop songs beg for. The catchy "Hot Topic" includes a list of musicians, writers and activists whose work deals with "hot topics." The chorus repeats: "Hot topic is the way that we rhyme." Hanna sings, "You're getting old/ That's what they say/ But don't give a damn/ I'm listening anyway." Remember how people raced to figure out who all those names were in Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and Madonna's "Vogue?" "Hot Topic" will work the same way. Most listeners will already recognize names like Joan Jett and Sleater-Kinney, but what about Billy Tipton and Vaginal Cream Davis?

Le Tigre leads off with "Deceptacon," a hook-driven number that satiates your desire for no-strings-attached entertainment with lyrics such as, "Wanna disco?/ Wanna see me disco?/ Let me hear you depoliticize my rhyme," and then moves into a lament on the lack of meaningful lyrics in popular rock. The band also takes a shot at experimentalism with "Slideshow at a Free University" and "Dude Yr So Crazy," which pairs a collage of descriptive phrases with a sound-loop that humorlessly conjures stalkers and psychopaths from classic American films.

Radical feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman once said, "I don't want to be part of your revolution if I can't dance." Like Fleetwood Mac before them (but with more politically relevant lyrics than, "All I want is to see you smile/ If it takes just a little while"), Le Tigre's debut will provide anthems for their target demographic. Fleetwood Mac reached out to hippies and people who liked to look at Mick Fleetwood's faux-testicles. Le Tigre aims for anyone interested in an addictive pastiche that could ultimately lead to metaphorical "voting-booths" for the cultural and political issues they're singing about.

Kristin Sage
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Pitchfork is an American online magazine launched in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber, based in Chicago, Illinois, and owned by Condé Nast. Being developed during Schreiber's tenure in a record store at the time, the magazine developed a reputation for its extensive focus on independent music, but has since expanded to a variety of coverage on both indie and popular music. The site generally concentrates on new music, but Pitchfork journalists have also reviewed reissues and box sets. Since 2016, it has published retrospective reviews of classic or otherwise important albums every Sunday. The site has also published "best-of" lists – such as the best albums of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and the best songs of the 1960s – as well as annual features detailing the best albums and tracks of each year since 1999 (and a retrospective Best Albums of 1998 list in 2018).
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