Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency
With "New Kicks," a new song and video released on the eve of the Republican convention in New York City, post-riot grrrl feminist electronic rockers Le Tigre express the anger of millions at the Bush administration's war presidency.
As a nation, America has a peculiar habit of forgetting the troubling moments of its national history. The current war in Iraq serves as a perfect example of this strange phenomenon. While many now agree that the United States' invasion of Iraq was ill-conceived, ill-planned, and, ultimately, unnecessary, few wish to acknowledge that the large number of Americans who knew this from the beginning, and protested the administration's plans to send troops to Iraq, were right.
Le Tigre, however, don't want anyone to forget how they, along with millions of other Americans, were practically ignored by the national media and the current administration. So the band decided to do what they do best, create a "dance anthem" to register their anger and frustration with President Bush.
On "New Kicks," a track off the band's forthcoming third album This Island (October 19), Le Tigre let their dissatisfaction with Bush and the war in Iraq be heard through their signature brand of "feminist punk electronic" music. The song, which features samples of anti-war speeches by Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton and others played over a syncopated drum beat and crunchy guitar line, contains the simplest of all messages: "Peace now." Le Tigre members Kathleen Hana, Johanna Fateman, and JD Samson reinforce this message through the use of gang vocals, a variety of slogans shouted in unison, some of which include "peace up, war down," "no blood for oil," and "this is what democracy looks like, this is what democracy sounds like."
The emotions of the song are urgent in their intensity, and simmer with an anger
born from watching elected officials ignore those they represent. And yet, "New
Kicks" never crosses over into the type of wild-eyed, pessimistic ranting of
which some Republicans are eager to accuse anyone who strongly disagrees with
their position. Instead, Le Tigre manage to craft a forceful statement that demands
the attention of those it addresses. As the band's press release states, "New
Kicks" serves as a "reflection of Le Tigre's deep convictions that it's within
their artistic scope to hold policy-makers and the media interests that
represent them accountable for their actions.”
What makes "New Kicks" even more powerful is the video that accompanies it. Directed by Samuael Topiary, the video opens on a tight shot of a "Stop Bush" sign and moves into footage of a February 15, 2003 protest in New York City over the impending war in Iraq, which the band, along with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, attended. As the video progresses, images of Kathleen, Johanna, and JD, wearing white dresses and suits emblazoned with the words "Stop Bush," are superimposed over the protest footage.
Perhaps the most powerful moment, however, comes in the middle of the video. As images of protesters continue to appear on the screen, a reporter begins to recite a list of all the cities in America and around the world where similar protests are occurring. After naming roughly 30 cities, the reporter admits that these are only a few of the places where groups have gathered to speak their mind. As this list is rattled off, it quickly becomes clear that the extent of the opposition to Bush's Iraq policy was never fully or accurately reported by the news media. This is where the power of the video lies it serves as a kind of surrogate voice for the countless millions whose individual voices were ignored or silenced. And this voice is shouting at the Bush administration.
This Island, co-produced by Le Tigre and Nicholas Sansano (Public Enemy, Sonic Youth), is the band's major-label debut for Strummer/Universal. And while the album contains its fair share of attacks on President Bush ("New Kicks," "Seconds"), it also explores issues closer to the band members’ personal lives, such as "Tell You Now" (produced by Ric Ocasek), "Don't Drink Poison," and "Viz" all of which deal, in one fashion or another, with the experience of belonging to feminist or lesbian communities. The album also contains a cover of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited." Ultimately, This Island represents Le Tigre's continuing mission of challenging the mainstream media and infusing pop music with a social and political dimension. Lee Templeton [Monday, August 30, 2004]