A mere seven months ago, Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna was calling for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's head. It had something to do with the 41 bullets pumped into Amadou Diallo by the city's police. On Le Tigre's second album, Feminist Sweepstakes, Hanna is no less radical, but in light of the tragic events that have struck New York, her politically charged agenda sounds callous and simple. And that last point is no accident: Hanna is simple. The concept behind Le Tigre, and the thing that differentiates it from her previous band, Bikini Kill, is that the drum machine rules. Each of Feminist Sweepstakes' 13 songs plinks along the rat-a-tat-tat beat of programmed percussion. The political outline is just a side effect.
Hanna straddles the line between cheeky and obnoxious throughout. On "F.Y.R.," she proclaims the trio's 1999 debut the "one cool record in the year of rock-rap." Yet she loads the song with enough "fuck"s to put a smile on Fred Durst's face and can't help but list recent backward steps in civil rights. "Celebrate gay marriage in Vermont by enforcing those old sodomy laws," she sings with barely a trace of a grin. While Hanna's lack of humor makes Feminist Sweepstakes an arduous listen, her punk sensibilities keep it at least interesting. She's fierce and committed in a way that hundreds of her rock-rap foes aren't. She throws around her ideas in songs such as "LT Tour Theme" ("For the ladies and the fags," she reminds us) and "Dyke March 2001" ("We . . . choose to move forward with a political agenda bent on the freedom of all") with irony-free force. "From the Desk of Mr. Lady," the EP that included the Giuliani track, took on tired targets like the Internet and music critics. Hanna's enemies are bigger this time and represent a huge step forward for such a simple-minded gal.