We can't turn Le Tigre into a bumper sticker for you. Well, we could try—"I Brake for Dialectical Sprechstimme"? "Ask Me About My 50 Years of Ridicule"? "My Other Car Is an Underground Electro Feminist Performance Artist"?—but it's not gonna work. They're too savvy, too sly and too self-aware to settle for a slogan ("Revolution Grrrrl-Style Now" was pretty good, but Le Tigre singer Kathleen Hanna used that one in Bikini Kill), and you know what? That makes them really fucking hard to write about.
See, Le Tigre is not a band that give out easy answers (they do give funny ones, if you're lucky enough to interview them and still luckier enough to be Vaginal Davis when you're doing it). Instead, they'll give you a homework assignment. They're every teacher you were ever both afraid of and in awe of, but with better hair and less clunky shoes. "For the ladies and the fags, yeah," they sing, "we're the band with the roller-skate jams."
They spin the personal ("Do you wanna stay in bed all day?/Do you remember feeling any other way?") and the political ("We tell the truth/They turn up the laugh track") into a biting-but-not-bitter feminist/queer berfesto, but they leave enough room to breathe, too—it's not dogma; it's dialogue, even when you can hear the heartfelt frustration throbbing through the cracks. And their full-length albums (1999's fucking brilliant self-titled and the more recent Feminist Sweepstakes) slide seamlessly from the dance floor to the dyke march to the university library, as laden with riffs as they are with references. Valie Export? Ariel Schrag? Billy Tipton? The Courage to Heal? The Gift of Fear? Ut? Sprechstimme? Listen and look it up—it'll probably be the first time you learned something from a record that didn't have a Sesame Street character on the cover.
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But maybe now you're thinking, "Okay, a lecture band." And Le Tigre is not a lecture band. In fact, unlike every other educational experience in our life, with the exception of the day in 10th-grade free enterprise class when someone threw a dildo at the substitute teacher, Le Tigre is a goddamn blast and a half. Who needs academic debates about mixing pop and politics when you've got a Volvo-load of girls shimmying in the Santa Ana streets? When you come out of the show ready to march or register to vote or punch a Republican congressman in the nuts because you're more wired and inspired than you've been in years? Or when you've got a flat-up-against-the-rafters crowd at the LA club Smell, roaring through the choruses loudly enough to echo whole parking lots away: "Oh, baby, you don't say anything! Oh, baby, why don't you ANSWER ME?"
And maybe now you're like, "Oh, okay, this is like that revolution Emma Goldman said we could dance to." And, well, that's appropriate, you know? Le Tigre flashbacks the best from the New York music scene they call home. Snag the hooks and the harmonies of '60s pop angels the Shangri-Las (from Queens!), the bare-bones basement rhythm of underlooked dance divas ESG (from the South Bronx!), the perky sample slinging of De La Soul (Long Island, but close enough from this West Coast perspective!) and the spastic synth-punk of Suicide (New York City proper!), and you'll be ready to receive transmissions. And revolution? Well, after we listen to Le Tigre, we start thinking in ways we might not otherwise be thinking, and prolonged exposure to that kind of thing can have a profound effect on your brain—kind of like Robitussin, but more constructive and without those scorpion hallucinations—and who knows where that could lead?
This is getting kind of love-y. But we're not doling out feel-good soundbites, and they're not superheroes—the new album fades badly against the debut, with all the lushness somehow turned into a lot of stripped-down guitar growls (which probably had a lot to do with the member switch-up somewhere in between). But they did snap us and a bunch of other kids out of a soul-sucking trance the last time they played here, and that hardly ever happens, and we've been trying to figure out how they did it ever since. If we could, we'd tell you. We can't. And that made this goddamn thing really hard to write. But now they're back, and we bet you they do it again.
Le Tigre performs with Chicks On Speed and Erase Errata at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-0377. Sat., 5 p.m. $13.49. All ages.