clap clap blog: we have moved

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Five new reviews in Flagpole. Actually, one's from last week, but who's counting? We've got Le Tigre, the Donnas, Dykehouse, DFA, and Cake, but focus on the first three if you're short on time or whatevs.

I also want to get into a bit more detail on a few of these, so, with no further ado...

Le Tigre

Let's apply the Eminem argument to Le Tigre, i.e., there are some horrible things being said, but they are nevertheless accurately reflective of a certain culture, so you are less criticizing the things being said and more the culture itself, and do you really want to do that? Because there's no question but that there's a nearly 1:1 concordance between the worldview and sense of style being presented in Le Tigre songs and Williamsburg dyke culture (WDC).[1] Now, there is a chicken-egg question here, given the strong relationship between the two--did Le Tigre create WDC or did WDC create Le Tigre?--but I only moved to New York 3.5 years ago and Le Tigre was released 5 years ago, so I'm not really equipped to say.

So when I'm criticizing Le Tigre, who I do genuinely find terminally grating, am I actually in turn criticizing WDC? I hope not, because I really like WDC. OK, admittedly they've stuck with the mullet thing way too long, and they're sort of painfully insular, but we can all get together and dance and drink and have a good time, which is more than I can say for a lot of people. (Indie rockers, I'm looking at you here.) They're good people as someone's else's grandmother would say. But it's undeniable that this particular culture is at the forefront of Le Tigre's music, and is a large part of what I find so annoying about them.

I implicitly try and excuse this in two ways in the article. One is by saying that the difference with Le Tigre's songs are that they concentrate this cultural personality or divide it in such a way that it's particularly offensive. I can go for weeks without having a particularly political exchange with my WD friends, and even then it's usually something along the lines of "Bush sucks" or me being bemused at this charmingly nutjob position on gay marriage, which I won't get into now. (Cultural-political speech along the lines of "we're going to this rally" doesn't count.) And obviously it's in the political arena that my disagreements with both Le Tigre and WDC are most pronounced: we both like video games, dirtbikes, hanging out, getting drunk, dancing, dance music, being silly, sleeping with girls, falling in love too easily, and talking too much about our relationships. But it's that sliver of a wedge between us on the political spectrum that ultimately becomes a divide. The difference is that with WDC, this isn't actually a problem, whereas with Le Tigre it is. I think I express my reasons for this pretty well in my comment about "Punker Plus," i.e. that it would be a great song if it focused on the personal and cultural elements rather than the political ones, because the latter is obvious and boring where the latter is interesting and vital. Re-divide it and it's fine, but as is, the annoyance at the political issues triggers my annoyance at the cultural ones as well.[2]

The other work-around is sorta solving the chicken-egg problem by placing Le Tigre first and saying it's their particular influence that's responsible for the annoying elements. Of course, I say that they're influencing the younger generation, and I have no way of knowing if that's actually true, as the set of teenage lesbians, or even, hell, female feminists[3], I know is kinda small. (They're all in college now--they grow up so fast! Bless.) So it's sorta a cop-out, but I also think it cuts to the heart of why Le Tigre annoys me and WLC doesn't. Somehow it's far more understandable to be like this when you're younger; what I'm worried about is less that this will influence the ladiez and more that it'll be the ne plus ultra[4]. Hate them though I do, I will admit that there are certainly worse things you could come across as a teen than Bikini Kill or Le Tigre. But this is reflective of a core belief: that foolishness when you are young should not only be excused, but encouraged. I don't expect anyone to really jump straight from Time magazine to Rawls--you do have to have that repulsive Chomsky stage in the middle there, and good for you for doing it. Hell, I'm sure I'm in a phase right now that I'll regard with horror and repulsion in as little as 10 years, or at least I desperately hope so. Life's not interesting if you're not moving through a series of absurd but totally comitted positions. But you also have to move out of it. Le Tigre does not wear their attitudes well; they seem, quite simply, too old to be saying what they're saying. Maybe this is unfair, but it's still true. Le Tigre are sending the message that you can still be a dumbass when you're they're age, and that's what worries me.

Uh, well, this went on for much longer than I meant it to, so Dykehouse tomorrow.

[1] For all I know it could be an accurate reflection of Silverlake dyke culture too, but let's stick to what I can personally verify.
[2] And like I said, there genuinely does seem to be a difference between this album and their earlier stuff. There's just nothing as playful and fun here as "My Metrocard." Nothing's really totally serious here (even "New Kicks" is at least a little silly, and not even unintentionally) but somehow it's not really, eh, Bis-y enough either. It's leaden and tired. Where before we had a verse like "OH FUCK Giuliani HE'S SUCH A fucking jerk SHUT DOWN All the stripbars WORKFARE Does not work" which at least acknowledges its banality and stupidity in a way that actually validates it, here we have attempts at more substantive political speech, except they're really only a notch or two elevated, which doesn't actually make them smart but does make them self-important, and that's no good.
[3] I'm not really very good at being friends with guys who aren't feminists, whether we use the word or not. Somehow we just don't click, you know?
[4] Dude, I don't believe that I'm using that correctly. Go me!