If you missed their first album, Le Tigre is Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hannah, Pixel-videomaker Sadie Benning and 'zine writer Johanna Fateman. The feminist trio wrap up their rhetoric in a bouncy, danceable package, using early-'80s drum machines and keyboards, with Hannah occasionally strapping on a guitar for some primitive fuzz chords. Not as ingenuously clever or tongue-in-cheek as their eponymous debut, From the Desk of Mr. Lady is more overtly political and jagged around the edges, as if Hannah and crew can't believe that--despite their revolutionary album--nothing's really changed.
The opening track, "Get off the Internet," starts with a low-fi bubble-gum verse consisting of a simple programmed beat and toy piano, with Hannah singing, "It feels so '80s/ Or early '90s/To be political" before demanding, "Destroy the right wing." And she's serious.
If Le Tigre didn't ooze charm, Hannah's delivery would edge into the strident territory. But the band's musical manifestoes put the beat before the polemic, and their exuberantly non-technical execution of the songs make them as much a hip performance art project as a musical group. "Bang Bang" has Hannah doing a Poly Styrene impersonation in an anti-racism rant that's interspersed with audio news bites chronicling police violence against blacks and immigrants. Electronically, the music is retro kitsch, with the girls resurrecting beats you'll recognize from the dawn of the sample and the drum machine. Elsewhere the band uses low-resolution samples and distorted power chords to give songs a punk feel. With Le Tigre, the message is often in the contrast--the incongruity of a track such as the musically bouncy, Caribbean-flavored "Gone B4 yr Home," to its lyrics--a suave dude intoning, "I never structure my life around fear of dismemberment or rape" (contrasting the isolation of the female speaker). "All that Glitters" is a stab at industrial music--an airy, pretty vocal alternated with Hannah screeching, "Oh baby, why don't you answer me" over a broken beat remix by Rachel Kovas.
Whereas BS 2000, Adam Horovitz's side project, is a goofy take on making fun sounds using primitive drum machines and keyboards, Le Tigre's earnestness is refreshing in these blasé times. Whether it's Hannah treating the audience like a batch of little sisters she's going to warn about the evils of the big bad world, or pointing out the hypocrisies of hipsterland, Le Tigre is about sisters doing it for themselves.