Radical femme-rock doesn't have to be a bore, as the partying-hard Kathleen Hanna demonstrates…
Sometimes pop and politics make uneasy partners. Surveying the British music scene at the moment, you could be forgiven for thinking that politics was something that happened to other people. In the US, meanwhile, REM, Springsteen and the Beastie Boys have all come together to give Bush a shakedown while New Yorkers Le Tigre having been kicking against the pricks since 1998. So, on the eve of the release of their third album ‘This Island’, they’ve refined their formula of coupling rocking, danceable tunes with seismic musical hooks (particularly ‘TKO’ and the title track) with bloody great lyrical barbs that rip at the consciences of the contented and self-satisfied with their radical feminist, queer and anti-war slogans.
It may be political but, judging by the spangly outfits and the number of glamorous lesbian couples snogging, it’s just as much a political party. There’s gay abandon in every sense of the word. If The Shangri Las had read Germaine Greer in the high-school dance of The Breakfast Club they’d be somewhere towards achieving Le Tigre’s greatness.
With films tied to the songs (all the drums and most of the samples are on DVD), it leaves the trio to indulge in shape-throwing, Stooges-y guitar abuse, megaphone vocals and three-part shouting. New recruit JD Samson shimmies like one of The Supremes belting out ‘Baby Love’ with added karate kicks, riot grrrl veteran Kathleen Hanna is glamour personified and Johanna Fateman just, well, rocks.
‘Deceptacon’ still has the best combination of brutal drums and synth handclaps ever to cavort about in lippy, while ‘Nanny Nanny Boo Boo’’s tremendous trumpet blasts are the sound of someone kicking the Beastie Boys in the balls.
When they’re focused on Bush ( ‘Seconds’), feminism ( ‘FYR’), or dancing (the cover of ‘I’m So Excited’), Le Tigre’s twin concerns of pop and politics throw caution to the wind and start making eyes at each other. If, by the end, the two Ps haven’t quite moved in together they’re certainly excitedly snogging and exchanging phone numbers. And that’s more than you can say about the middle-aged fumblings of Springsteen and REM.