The prevailing rockdude take on Le Tigre is that they're humorless feminists who can't play their instruments very well -- never mind that (a) they're often hilarious and (b) these same doltish fanboys will go to their graves defending the brilliance of early Replacements and Ramones records. True, Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and Sadie Benning aren't virtuosas: Hanna, former frontwoman for Riot Grrl legends Bikini Kill, is the only member of Le Tigre who's even been in a band before. The guitar riffs are scrappy and simple, the samples rudimentary; the Farfisas and Casios sound plinky, the beats cobbled-together and dated. Moreover, Le Tigre clearly do not give a fuck if we label them amateurs: Printed on their new CD/EP, From the Desk of Mr. Lady, is the batty, beleaguered Cathy cartoon character, who proclaims, index finger raised high, "In seeking specific technical information, we discover that behind the hysteria of male expertise lies the magic world of our unmade art."
Musical proficiency isn't a masculinist plot designed to stifle female expression; neither is it an end in itself. Le Tigre's magic lies not in flashy technique but in their ability to translate their ideology into the idiom of the ass, to balance the bombast and the booty until they've achieved the perfect ratio of high-concept performance art to low-res techno to good old-fashioned punk rock. The songs are political without being naïve, ironic without being detached. The first and catchiest song, "Get Off the Internet," begins with Hanna's mock-lament, "It feels so '80s/or early '90s/to be political/Where are my friends?" The anti-cop tirade "Bang! Bang!" splices audio clips of newscasts about the Amadou Diallo killing with tinkly keyboards; weird bleats, beeps, chirps and yowls; and Hanna's frenzied yelping ("Who's gonna call 911/when they can't tell a wallet/from a motherfucking gun?"). The most experimental track, "They want us to make a symphony out of the sound of women swallowing their own tongues," is also the funniest, a sound-collage of percussive "uhs" and "ums" triggered by an interviewer's earnest but asinine question about the state of contemporary feminism.
Unfortunately, the myriad pleasures of Le Tigre are certain to be lost on die-hard rockdudes, for reasons that have nothing to do with a lack of musicianship or sense of humor. Fact is, standard-issue fanboy doesn't get off on female anger, not unless it's the sexy kind that's all about him and how bitchy we get when he fucks some other chick. Whatever. As Le Tigre would put it, "Yabba dabba dabba doo, man. Yabba dabba dabba dude."