This Island deserves three awards: one for the best/weirdest song title on an album (“Nanny Nanny Boo Boo”), another for best cover of the year (The Pointer Sisters’ hit “I’m So Excited”) and the last for making the Casio keyboard this year’s guitar. The women of Le Tigre, the band behind This Island, are renowned for interlocking radical feminist ideals with an intuitive knack for fashioning killer loops and samples out of electro-beats, punk rock riffs and a frighteningly appealing ’80s new wave sensibility. These elements spawn songs that stand as pop-culturally subversive, politically apt and socially progressive anthems that simultaneously aim to maximize dance floor potential. The past two albums fared successfully despite a lack of major-label distribution and promotion, so one can imagine the dismay and anxiety of indie purists when Le Tigre announced its move to Universal Records. But from the puissant disc-opener “On the Verge,” it becomes immediately clear that Le Tigre has not sacrificed its artistic integrity and sounds more invigorated than ever.
The vocal performances of former riot grrrl Kathleen Hannah on tracks like “Seconds” and “TKO” hearkens back to her days in the band Bikini Kill. She uses her lethal and surprisingly dynamic set of pipes to emit visceral screams that command the listener’s attention. Tracks like “Tell You Now” and “Sixteen” are reminiscent of her V.G.I. (Valley Girl Intelligentsia) work under the pseudonym Julie Ruin. Hannah shares vocal duties with fellow bandmates JD Samson and Johanna Fateman, who both contribute to Le Tigre’s collective voice, and musical and political objectives. Samson in particular steps into the spotlight in the hopeful track “Viz” as a gender-bending lesbian to discourse on the fact that she and others in her community are socially relegated to the periphery. Musically, This Island might be considered a disappointment to fans of the rawness found on past albums, because while the production quality here isn’t excessive, you don’t miss a single beat or hammer-on. By the same token, the production seems to favor the snarling attitude of these songs, and there is a sense of cohesion independent of the themes that the self-titled debut and Feminist Sweepstakes lacked. Besides, who turns down a chance to have a few tracks produced by the rock-pop icon Ric Ocasek anyway? Certainly not Le Tigre.
[Jory Dominguez: makin’ your bullshit disappear like a Hou-Fuckin’-Dini since 1983.]