There's really no way to break the news gently: Le Tigre has sold out. The proto-feminist electro-punk trio once seemed about as likely to record for a major label as they were to join the military-industrial complex or wear Dockers. But not only does "This Island" mark Le Tigre's "mainstream" debut, it's the band's most cheerily subversive record yet, a hyperkinetic, hyper-political mix of punk, pop and new wave wrapped up in a big, shiny package.
Alternately giddy and feral, frustrating and inspired, "This Island" is an '80s dance record dressed up as an electronic punk album, heavy on synthesizers, tape loops and big, beefy bass lines. It recalls, in no particular order, Erase Errata, vintage Beastie Boys and Madonna, Peaches, Luscious Jackson and any number of "Footloose"-era pop records, the latter so much that the trio's inclusion of a downright affectionate cover of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" doesn't even raise an eyebrow.
Though "This Island" spins dizzily from one dance floor genre to the next, Le Tigre (fronted by former Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna) isn't afraid to let politics get in the way of a good time: "New Kicks," a collection of antiwar speeches taped during a 2003 march and set to a staccato beat, belongs on another record (actually, it was on another record; "Dyke March 2001," from the trio's "Feminist Sweepstakes," was basically the same thing). And even Le Tigre can't do much with the tuneless, pedantic "Punker Plus" ("Hey, we want a universal healthcare deal / And we want Kissinger on trial for real"). For a group so adept at mixing politics and pleasure, it's a rare misstep.
-- Allison Stewart