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Riot grrrl revisited: going down memory lane with Le Tigre's Who Took The Bomp.

When I picked up Le Tigre's self-titled album on a whim back in 1999--because I liked the cut-and-paste style cover--I had no idea what a revelatory experience the record would play in my fresh-out-of-high-school life. Back in those heady pre-9/11 days when the American cultural paradigm had yet to fully shift toward the consumerist, conservative and civil liberty crushing Bush years, the once strong riot grrrl movement was barely hanging on by a thread as mainstream feminism was actively being co-opted by the Spice Girls' empty "girl power" message. Le Tigre, fronted by riot grrrl royalty Kathleen Hanna--who has a unique gift for belting out irreverent poppy tracks infused with overtly queer and feminist messages--managed to keep the rebellion alive with relatable songs instilled with unflinching political messages which were, quite literally, music to my ears. Rounding out the band was bassist Johanna Fateman and the alluringly androgynous keyboardist JD Samson. And while the group went on indefinite hiatus in 2007, the legacy continues through their music and now with their new documentary Who Took the Bomp.

Filmed in 2004, as the band toured in support of their album This Island, Who Took The Bomp offers a rare peek behind the curtain for one of the most important feminist, queer bands in music history. Made up of a collection of live performance footage and backstage Minks, it's a hilarious and eye-opening glimpse at the whip-smart and incredibly funny minds behind the music.

What stands out today is how unapologetically front and center their politics were--even when they gained worldwide attention they refused to compromise their principles. This is evident in an incident that occurs late in the doc in which the band must decide between an opportunity for greater exposure and sticking to their political guns when a women's magazine refuses to include the world "lesbian" on a promotional flyer for a planned event with the band, thus exposing some unexpected homophobia. Ultimately, they pass on the promotion.

Also featured is Le Tigre's performance artlike stage show--a flurry of sequins, brightly colored lycra and choreographed dances. What's clear is the power this trio had on stage, matching the politically charged lyrics and slideshows with irreverent, relatable antics that engaged and empowered the audience.

The doc serves as an excellent reminder of when feminism and DIY principles were vital and palpable in the Zeitgeist. Funny, brilliant and subversive, Who Took the Bomp is guaranteed to get your feminist dander up and make you ache for a reunion tour. In the meantime, you can make do by putting this DVD on repeat and sharing it with all your girlfriends (and baby dykes) who may have missed this essential queer feminist band in their heyday. (

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Author:Shatto, Rachel
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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