Record Review - 2 December 02 2004

What is pop? It originated as shorthand for "popular," when holding hands and swooning was fashionable in music. The tunes were mellifluous, the mood buoyant. Now, however, it's harder to say what's popular in a country divided.

Take, for example, perky but fiercely socio-political Le Tigre — Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and JD Samson — whose herstory is rife with DIY-feminist activism. Le Tigre makes hook-heavy music, but disseminates opinions on gender politics and revolution grrrl style, not exactly popular in both Red and Blue states. But they're topics delivered with pep and an increasingly radio-friendly sheen, so it begs the question: Is this pop? To Le Tigre, it's "pop" — the envisioned sound of bubbles burst as the group attempts to co-opt the major label system with its third full-length.

This Island follows an agenda to infiltrate and imbue pop with dimensionality. No longer relying on looping long samples, Le Tigre has brought on producer Nick Sansano (and Ric Ocasek in the standout "Tell You Now") to marry righteous electro-punk and viewpoints. Across 12 tracks, Le Tigre makes like Chicks on Speed to Blondie to J.J. Fad; screechy and preachy to hopscotch hip-hop. However, the buffing of the chaotic lo-fi hiccups makes Le Tigre's staunch missives seem less urgent.

Of course, a good dance party helps build community (think "American Bandstand"). So in making dissent danceable, at least, Le Tigre has succeeded. -- Tony Ware

Le Tigre plays the Coca-Cola Roxy Theater Wed., Dec. 8. 8 p.m. $15.