For the last decade, Kathleen Hanna has been determined to change her world by using her fists. Her latest effort, Le Tigre, indicates that she's found feathers.
The former Bikini Kill lead singer/lyricist who was charged -- rightly or wrongly -- with instigating much of the Riot Grrrl movement has found a new, infectious style, both in her music and prose. The first release from her new three-woman band is a catchy blend that veers away from hammer-hitting punk rock and glides into, of all places, surf-safari bebop.
The opening track, "Deceptacon," is Devo-kooky fun, a bouncy number complete with wacky keyboard riffs and backed up by a chorus of pogo-in-your-bedroom claps. In fact, two-thirds of the album is composed of what can be considered geeky dance numbers that would put a smile on Dick Clark's face. Yet Hanna's message remains the same. Perhaps acknowledging her own evolution, she challenges her listeners early on in "Deceptacon": "Let me hear you depoliticize my rhyme," she says.
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Who would want to?
In "What's Yr Take On Cassavettes," Hanna opens up the question for discussion, giving her audience something to chew on instead of force-feeding them. Of course, she's clever enough to frame the argument within her own context and gives the listener the following choices: Misogynist? Genius? Alcoholic? Messiah?
Hanna has gone beyond arguing over the unrealistic images of Barbie dolls and glossy magazine covers. Here she prods more complex issues of gender that are just as pervasive, if less obvious. For example, at a time when a catchy tune by the Offspring ("She's Got Issues") easily moves up the charts -- and into the popular subconscious -- with lyrics implying that a good girlfriend is one who comes without life experiences, Le Tigre's "Dude, Yr So Crazy!" unwittingly dismisses the simpleton fantasy. In the song, Hanna drones off a laundry list of catchphrases and Nineties fads (shabby chic, muscle tees, dive bars, retro porn), while between verses, a voice that sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher condescendingly babbles on and on. (Get it, Dexter?)
Hanna continues to make poignant statements. Her new choice of weaponry has made her even more persuasive.