Home! Home! Interactive Williamsburg Our Gallery Guide Local Restaurant Guide F. Sot Fitzgerald's Local Bar Guide Arts and Entertainment Picks Free Williamsburg's Online Gallery Film Reviews Alexander Laurence interviews the stars Music Reviews Book Reviews Crazy, funny, often pointless links talk to us Still Fresh

7,768 out of 10,000

Here's a fun, short record of mostly uptempo tunes that rock, from a former Bikini Kill member, with samples and keyboards that sound like an arty garage band. It might not reinvent Rock & Roll, but it does live it, and make it worthwhile. It's simple, punky, political and it's good party music.

"Hot Topic" is my favorite tune, with a surfy, booming beat much like Bjork's on "Human Behavior." All the while Hanna is namechecking a cornucopia of females figures from rock and roll, politics, and literature over an unending chorus of "Hot Topic is the way that we rhyme". I don't know what that means, but then again, I don't know who 90% of the chicks mentioned in the song are either. It's got a great oldie rock feel, and it's a smart call to arms for women.

The cheesy keyboards, mostly played by Johanna Fateman, create both a modern lo-fi and oldie rock and roll taste that warms every song. There's a decided feeling of band, here, of girls not just locking in musically, but clearly having a good time in the studio, or someone's living room, where some tracks were recorded. The singing is raw yet tuneful, and frontwoman Kathleen Hanna sometimes sounds much like Kate Pierson from the B52's if she had made a daring side project during that bands early years.

The key word, repeated throughout the record, is alright, and it's alright. On "Deceptacon", the Alright gets an angry shriek, assailing someone who "took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp". That, the "Ramalamadingdong and the alright make great fun, even if alright sounds like a put down. By track five, the bleepy "Phanta", Alright has become a character. "Now here's alright" we're told. It's the only hope offered in this tale of some sort of killing of innocence. By the very sweetly sung "Friendship Station" the singer is forlorn and just wants "to make it alright", which is a noble mission, one that LeTigre accomplishes.

That they try to explore new directions as well is also commendable, if the results are not. Towards the end of the record are buried two arty numbers that feature speaking as opposed to singing, a bad device. "Slideshow At Free University" uses art school lecturing an slinky keyboards to some small effect, and "Dude, Yr So Crazy" uses stream of non-consciousness to even less. Then "Les and Ray" redeems this very likeable disc, by bringing back the singing. This may not change your world, but it's the most fun for fun's (and feminist politic's) sake I've heard this year. If I have any other criticism it's with the band photos. These are some lovely ladies. They could stand to show us more skin. Get savvy, Le Tigre!

What a wonderful opener. Great yelling, a nice introduction to the keyboards, which a squiggly and stinging, oldie rock references this number sets up the album and puts down some dumb rock star.

"Hot Topic"
Carol Rama, Eleanor Antin, Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneeman, Gretchen Phillips, Cibo Matto, Leslie Feinberg, Faith Ringgold, Mr. Lady, Laura Cottingham, Mab Segrest, The Butchies, Tammy Rae Carland, Sleater-Kinney, Vivienne Dick, Lorraine O'Grady, Gayatri Spivak, Angela Davis, Laurie Weeks, Dorothy Allison, Gertrude Stein, Marlon Riggs, Billie Jean King, Ut, DJ Cuttin Candy, David Wojnarowicz, Melissa York, Nina Simone, Ann Peebles, Tammy Hart, The Slits, Hanin Elias, Hazel Dickens, Cathy Sissler, Shirley Muldowney, Urvashi Vaid, Valie Export, Cathy Opie, James Baldwin, Diane Dimassa, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Mia X, Krystal Wakem, Kara Walker, Justin Bond, Bridget Irish, Juliana Lueking, Cecilia Dougherty, Ariel Skrag, The Need, Vaginal Creme Davis, Alice Gerard, Billy Tipton, Julie Doucet, Yayoi Kusama, Eileen Myles.

"What's your take on Cassavetes"
Evidently he's some filmmaker. Silly song, clearly written in half a minute. This is the third song of three thus far that have spoken voices back and forth. One hopes they'll lay off that. They do, until the arty numbers at the end. Ends with some dogs barking. I've never disliked dogs on records.

"The The Empty"
Great yelling. This sounds like Bis' first record, or is it like Bikini Kill? I don't know. Is it a dis against The The? There's a bad concert mentioned in the lyrics, so probably. Bis? Dis? The singing is everything on this frantic piece. "Oh ,BABY! You don't say ANYTHING". That was meant to show how the singing sounds. Being a music critic is a pointless endeavor.

Some computer controlled bounty hunter seeker searches for some innocent creature, to one of the better melodies. It starts out with a news report on the Manson Family, and ends with an explosion. Very bleepy middle, with a catchy chorus.

"Eau d' Bedroom Dancing" a Pixies like bass backing to soft, melodic singing. The sharp edged meets soft sweetness predicts "Les and Ray". It works. It's a love song.

"Let's Run"
Sounds like the manifesto for the band, delivered in a fast rocking way. "I wanna spread my dementia/I wanna knock it off the line...I jut want to get electric tonight/you know with you you you you". They do.

"My Metrocard"
Another rocking number with some fine punk guitar. Social criticism such as "Oh Fuck/Guliani/He's such/a fucking jerk" have revitalized my own political position. The New Republic would hold more sway if they could rock like this.

"Friendship Station"
Gently compressed vocal sings the blues while the band plays a poppy fifties rock vamp. Le Tigre promises "I'm gonna let it be alright/(I wanna be there!)/(I wanna take you there!)" They do. This has a last song on the album moment to it, because the next two numbers aren't really song and Les and Ray is more like the surprise capper.

"Slideshow at Free University"
This has a slinky mysterious keyboard riff, of a Pink Panther vibe, and some art school lecture. Then some broken glass noises.

"Dude, Yr So Crazy"
It's a lot like "Slideshow at Free University" only the keyboard isn't very interesting, and the art lecture is replaced by some spoken poetry of phases unconnected anywhere but in the writer's mind. Could use some broken glass noises. The sound of shredded audio tape would do nicely here.

"Les and Ray"
LeTigre weave well the abrasive with the melodic. Here they up the ante as they end the album. Shrill hockey rink keyboards and strained singing still allows through a pretty, tasteful memory of a child hearing her neighbors piano, and thanks them. Much thanks also to the rhythm section (samples) for rounding the corners.

What to do when you've never heard the acclaimed former band
of the singer for the band you're currently reviewing

Bluff it out. Act like you're totally hip to the scene. Mention Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin (the recording project that Le Tigre grew out of) Rickets, Frumpies and any other side projects your minimal research will turn up. Make up a name, like The Knee Caps, and drop it into the review as if everyone should know them.

Making passing references that are so vague that they could mean anything. "While they may not Kill the Bikini, they're still the Grrrls" (What ever happened to Riot Grrrls? Was that a grunge thing? Have they transformed into Brawl Wmmmn or Uprising Ladyyys?)

Apologize for how lame you are for not having listened to Bikini Kill. Really overstate how horrible it is that you haven't listened to one out of eight billion must hear bands out there. Confess your worthlessness, so all will see how hip you are to know how unhip you are.

Write a pointless box full of half cute crap that only you, the reviewer will find interesting.

Sit back, light up a camel cigarette. No one will care. It's a record review. Check the glove compartment one more time.

back   home

Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | November 2000 | Volume 8