PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Le Tigre: This Island

Katie Zerwas

Smart and sexy, political and provocative, Le Tigre is the best and brightest of feminist rock.


Le Tigre

This Island

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2004-10-19
UK Release Date: 2004-10-11
Amazon
iTunes

Finally, it's here. No, not the long awaited follow up to Le Tigre's Feminist Sweepstakes. Nor the first sounds of the predictable whining of long-time fans eager to label their beloved Le Tigre as "sell-outs". Rather, the most longed for moment of all, the moment we have been promised since "Free to Be You and Me", has arrived. With the debut of This Island, Le Tigre has made it possible for queer and straight folk to come together, lift up their hands in unison, and shake their booties on the dance floor. Reprising their past work with raw fuzz guitars, hot beats, punked out melodies, and fierce feminist lyrics, their latest release adds a professional gloss and a disco flavor to righteous riot grrrl rock. Some will call it mainstream, others sold out, but I dare anyone to call it sexless, heartless or apolitical. With this repertoire of dance-floor seductions, Le Tigre may finally break into the hearts and minds of mass culture mavens, bringing closet queers into the spotlight and feminist politics to mass media. Even for the doggedly apolitical, the album is a musical feast, treating ravers and rockers to even doses of heavy techno hooks and raucous punk swagger.

Divorcing Le Tigre's music from their politics would be antithetical to the very liberationist concept for which the band has made themselves the poster child, but music reviews being what they are, I will try to tuck my politics away for a bit and focus on form over content. All caveats aside, Le Tigre's latest release is pure, unadulterated aural pleasure. This Island is a delectable buffet of new wave dance pop synthesized atom smashing vamped up rock and roll. Like the floral corsages they sport on the album's cover, they wear their musical influences with pride, adding just a dash of class. On "Tell You Now" Ric Ocasek's cameo appearance taps a bit of the classic Cars sound, with catchy pop melodies, romantic lyrics, and raw ultramodern synths. On the more pepped up full throttle songs, Le Tigre blends a little of the Go-Gos' shout out vocal style and party girl attitude with the poetry of queer identity politics, as on "TKO" and an unforgettable cover of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited". Elsewhere on the album the vocals recall the emotive growl of Patti Smith's deadpan poet-songstress persona, not to mention the screamo style of Kathleen Hanna's own Bikini Kill.

The many musical faces of Le Tigre draw out their focus on identity politics by defying essentialist constructs of genre and gender. They successfully mitigate a minefield of pop music clichés, cleverly weaving together hip-hop beats and samples, sparkling electronica timbres, slick new wave synths, and the great triumvirate of the personal, the political and the power chord. Keenly rejecting both the sweet innocent female singer songwriter stereotype and the trope of the bad-girl misanthrope, the women of Le Tigre exhibit a chameleon-like ability to morph their voices from a feminine whisper to a snarling wail, exploiting every vocal nuance in between. The anthemic rocker "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo" quips and quakes with humor and energy, while the trip hop track "Sixteen" crafts a seductive ballad with a slowed down and sweetened up flavor. With "New Kicks" the band kicks it old school with a nod to political and musical influence Public Enemy. This song is a masterful use of sampling with sound clips taken from the 2003 anti-war protest in New York City carefully looped over hot beats and hardcore guitars to turn the voices of the People into a lyrical song of protest. More than an innovative work of art, the song is an important anthem of solidarity and a poetic call for peace. These complex and spirited songs clearly reflect the honest, authentic and democratic spirit of the band and the creativity of each of its members.

Given Le Tigre's emphasis on positing authentic private identities in the public realm, the label of "sell out" tends to chafe more than usual. Although more often than not a major label release from an indie band does signifying a stultifying cooptation by the world of corporate entertainment, for once it appears this accusation is totally unfounded. Le Tigre found a home on Strummer/Universal only after the collapse of the feminist label Mr. Lady, and they are in the process of organizing their own Le Tigre label. The elitism of the new glossy sound, grace a ProTools, is not so much "selling out" as buying into better technology, an overtly democratic attempt at widening their listenership. After all, isn't it about time radical feminists allowed themselves to quit preaching to the choir by confining their message to opaque and unapproachable art? These anthems to feminine, butch, queer, everybody liberation simultaneously critique dominant heteropatriarcal discourse and offer the possibility of escaping it through the bacchanalian disco, and perhaps even the everyday carnival of mainstream radio and music television. Perhaps "sell out" is better understood as a means of articulating a sense of aesthetic disappointment with Le Tigre's cleaned up sound, but apolitical and inauthentic are two adjectives that simply do not apply to This Island. Smart and sexy, political and provocative, Le Tigre is the best and brightest of feminist rock.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.