9 March 2009

Le Tigre

Le Tigre
Mr Lady, 1999

After the break-up of Bikini Kill, singer Kathleen Hanna began to take stock of what had happened to the "riot grrl" movement the band helped create. In an interview with Punk Planet in 1998, she spoke about being "fed up with rock music" and being a public figure that people felt free to gossip about and "treat like shit". But she also started to question some of the politics the band had espoused and that the independent music scene took for granted. For example, its opposition to mainstream media. Rolling Stone may have turned her ideas into sound bites, but the coverage also helped inspire more young listeners to get interested in politics. Then there was the strange expectation that to be an activist, you had to act like a victim. "I think it's a joyous thing to fight back," she said.

The one idea Hanna remained firm on was that she wanted revolution, not just the same opportunities as men to climb up the corporate ladder. "I don't believe in trying to change the system as it is, because the whole system has to change," she said. The following year she founded a new band called Le Tigre with friends Johanna Fateman, a zine-maker, and Sadie Benning, who created experimental films. Their debut album sounded very little like the vicious punk rock of Bikini Kill. It was filled with pop melodies, cheap synthesiser and quirky samples. On 'Hot Topic' the band reeled off the names of almost sixty of their heroes on top of a drumbeat, drawing on the sounds of hip-hop and retro girl groups.

But the most notable thing about Le Tigre was its merciless critique of other musicians. On opening track 'Deceptacon', Hanna didn't mince words while taking a nameless pop star to task over trite lyrics: "I'm so bored that I'd be entertained even by a stupid fucking linoleum floor/ A linoleum floor!/ Your lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor!/ I'll walk on it/ I'll walk all over you." On 'The The Empty' she went a step further, spitting acid in a high-pitched squeal over electric guitar and a skittering drum machine: "I went to your concert and I didn't feel anything/ I went to your concert and I didn't hear anything!" And then, when the discordant sound drops off for a second: "Oh, baby, why won't you talk to me?/ Oh, baby, you just wanna entertain?/ Oh, baby, you don't say ANYTHING!"

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