Le Tigre experiments with a larger palette of electronic sounds on its third full-length and major-label debut, This Island. The result of their first-ever collaboration with a producer (Nicholas Sansano, and on “Tell You Now,” Ric Ocasek) is a fuller and more worked-over sound than on their previous albums — it’s as if the band had the time and the tools to polish the record as they pleased. This is tricky territory for a band whose charm comes largely from the raw simplicity and occasional coarseness of their songs, and in a few spots, the sound is overdone (take “Nanny Nanny Boo Boo” for example).
For the most part, though, Le Tigre has avoided making the songs too shiny, and what ultimately stands out most about This Island is the quality of the vocals, particularly Kathleen Hanna’s. She exercises her full range over the course of the album; she sounds soft and taunting through the verses but full-throated on the chorus of “After Dark,” then critical but cool and collected on “Tell You Now,” the best and most understated track on the album. On the Bush-bashing (and still all-too-relevant) “Seconds,” Hanna uses her best shriek to convey both the intellectual and visceral reactions W. is so good at provoking.
Le Tigre is well-known for marrying politics and dancing, and “Viz” and “This Island” most successfully fulfill this expectation. Both are extremely catchy and examine larger issues (butch lesbian visibility, the New York state of mind) from a distinct point of view. On “New Kicks,” which is constructed from samples of chants and speeches recorded at the February 15, 2003 anti-war demonstration in New York City organized by United for Peace and Justice, this personal voice is sacrificed to a concept, and the result is empowering but less listenable.
Le Tigre’s music is best appreciated in concert; though they have put out solid and well-received albums, it’s their multi-media, high-energy live shows that distinguish them. Not every track on This Island lives up to the standard set by Le Tigre’s earlier releases — the quick, feminist-informed wit of older songs like “What’s Yr Take on Cassavetes” and “T.G.I.F.” doesn’t present itself quite as overtly. But the real test will be the way this new material takes shape on stage. And just because I might wish they’d produced a few more funny, pointed political anthems to help me through my sweatpants-and-hot chocolate post-election depression, it’s admirable that Le Tigre refused to make another Feminist Sweepstakes even when there are so many easy targets lying around.
Interview with Le Tigre
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New Kicks (Video) (Windows Media)
New Kicks (Video) (Real)
New Kicks (Video) (Quicktime)
Seconds (Audio) (Windows Media)
Seconds (Audio) (Real)
TKO (Audio) (Windows Media)
TKO (Audio) (Real)