Who Took the Bomp?

Le Tigre on Tour

 

Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour

Edited by Sarah Devorkin & Paul Kloss

Produced by Le Tigre

Directed by Kerthy Fix

2005


Featuring Le Tigre:

Johanna Fateman 

Kathleen Hanna

JD Samson

 

Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories

 

Video:

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Codec: MPEG-2

Runtime: 72 minutes

Chapters: 21

Region: All

 

Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Subtitles: Optional English

 

Extras:

• Video Commentary with Le Tigre about the film (2009)

• 4 previously unreleased live performances

• Outtakes with Johanna and JD

• Live Show in Vienna (2002)

• Rattina the Puppet interviews the band at Ladyfest 2001

• Jacket essay by filmmaker Matt Wolf

 

Presentation:

Custom gatefold paper DVD case w/ slipcover

Release Date: June 7, 2011



Product Description:

You’ve got to look twice to sort out the title of this DVD.  More if you are unfamiliar with “Le Tigre.”  The spine has it right: “Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour” not “Le Tigre Who Took the Bomp? On Tour”  So who are “Le Tigre” you might ask?  And what is this video all about?  Here’s Oscilloscope’s blurb on the subject:


WHO TOOK THE BOMP? LE TIGRE ON TOUR follows iconic feminist electronic band Le Tigre on their 2004-2005 international tour across four continents and through ten countries. Supported by a community of devoted fans and led by outspoken Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna (formally of Bikini Kill), Le Tigre confronts sexism and homophobia in the music industry while tearing up the stage via performance art poetics, no-holds-barred lyrics, punk rock ethos, and whip-smart wit in this edgy and entertaining documentary. Directed by Kerthy Fix, WHO TOOK THE BOMP? LE TIGRE ON TOUR features never before seen [on video] live performances, archival interviews, and revealing backstage footage with these trail-blazing artists.


               


Le Tigre took over the world with their “electronic feminist punk.”  What began as a fun project became one of the most relevant bands of the last decade. Ignoring the constrictions of both the mainstream and the underground, the band has never believed that fun and intelligence couldn’t coexist.  They have demystified electronic music, critiqued government policies, and celebrated female and queer artists all while dropping roller-skate jams that make everyone dance. The film is a look into their world and a document of their thrilling multimedia performances.


. . . and on the director, Kerthy Fix:

Ms. Fix’s credits include “Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman” with director Jennifer Fox, “Hotel Gramercy Park” with filmmaker Douglas Keeve, and “Who Does She Think She Is?” airing on PBS this year. She also directed and produced “Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields.”


               


The Movie: 7

Full disclosure: Not only had I never paid attention to this group before this (at least I knew who they were), but I have very little affinity for their music and Punk Rock in general.  Which brings me directly to my first and, possibly, most important takeaway: I now have an answer - possibly not the correct answer, but it’s an answer I find intruiging - to a question that has for me long remained unanswered: What is the difference between Rock ‘n’ Roll and “Rock”?  The answer, oversimplified, perhaps, but speaks to me is: “Politics.”


To my jaded musical sensibility, Le Tigre is all about politics.  About music - not so much.  Yet music is their medium.  Or perhaps I should say, the concert experience is their medium; the stage, their podium.  In this way, Le Tigre, and hundreds of groups like them (unique though they may be), have more in common with the protest folk music from Woodie Guthrie to Bob Dylan than they do with Elvis, Little Richard or early Stones and Beatles.  Like Guthrie, the musical aspects of their songs are more the fluid in which the message in conveyed.  Dylan changed all that.  His politically potent songs (The Times They Are A-Changin, Masters of War, Blowin’ in the Wind) are inseparable from the melodies and textures in which they reside - or, at the very least, they feel connected to them in a way that the melodies of your average protest songs seem arbitrary - even when covered by other artists.


               


My introduction to radical social politics came the year after President Kennedy was killed upon entering grad school at that hotbed of student unrest and Commie Symps: the University of California at Berkeley.  There were speakers and demonstrations about unions and the farm labor movement every day it seemed, about free speech and, most visibly (and, eventually, effectively), protests about the escalation of the U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia.  Less prominent, but still visible, was the “acting out” of sexual politics which was then melded into the “free speech movement.”  The “sexual revolution” that coincided with the introduction of birth control pill and the general distribution of hallucinogenics, Black Power, Women’s Lib, and Gay Rights were born.


Here we are 30-40 years later and younger people feel and act like they just discovered the politics of sex - and, in a way, they have.  Just because the floodgates were opened in the seventies doesn’t mean that attitudes were changed in every recess of the America or in the hearts and minds of what eventually became the “Religious Right.”   Quite the contrary.


               


Alongside and part and parcel of this peculiarly American sexual enlightenment was Rock Music in all its permutations.  No longer the Be-Bop Rock ‘n’ Roll of the fifties and sixties, Rock became a reactionary force of its own.  As the GLTB movement became more empowered, Rock became louder and its lyrics angrier.  More important than the lyrics was its performance which, from the point of view of the audience, migrated from dance to its own raucous and passionate responsories.  In all the clamor I don’t see as how anyone could even hear the words.  (I couldn’t when I attended rock concerts in the seventies.)  Audiences either know them already or catch a buzz word or phrase, or somehow understand what this all about and behave accordingly. 


Le Tigre is a self-admitted amateur group.  They revel in the fact that are not really musicians or showmen.  As group’s leader, Kathleen Hanna, says, “If guys can go on stage and not really know what they’re doing as they go along, why can’t we?”  There is no doubt that they are bodacious and courageous, though long since they haven’t had to worry about being closed down by homophobic rednecks or fascistic police.


               


Le Tigre takes advantage of contemporary compositional techniques like sampling and, together with a drum machine and the vaguest live instrumental playing, create a texture - often raucous, satirical, angry and passionate - in which to rouse their sympathetic audience.  I say “angry”, but this should not be confused with “hateful.”  These gals are well beyond such reactionary feelings, if indeed they ever needed to go through that phase.  All the same, their songs are laced with references to life experiences in which they have felt belittled, disenfranchised, misunderstood and ostracized. Even so, there were times during the interview clips where I found myself kind of astonished at some of things that Kathleen had to say about her experience as a female rock group singer - mostly about what she had to endure in a male-dominated industry, but also what she feels is the business of making music is all about.  I couldn’t say for sure who was the more naive: her or me.


               


I have to admit that I don’t understand half of what Le Tigre is singing even with subtitles.  It all seems like it’s in code. Shorthand cultural references not only abound, but seem to be the substance of their songs.  Perhaps this was best expressed when they came to “Deceptacon,” in the middle of which I did not even recognize the chorus, shouted out on megaphone by JD:


Who took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp?

Who took the Ram from the Ramalamading dong?

Who took the Bomp from the Bompalompalomp?

Who took the Ram from the Ramalamading dong?


Yet this bit of nonsense doggerel was something I tried to memorize in my youth.  In the hands of Le Tigre, the use of these words strikes me as itself meaningless, other than what is conferred by the artists and audience.  A finer example of the generation gap I’ve not encountered.


               


Critical Reaction:

[Austinist]

Fix took on a unique challenge compared to her previous film, Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, when Le Tigre lead singer Kathleen Hanna handed over 50 tapes of footage in the hopes of creating a fans-only DVD. Once Fix went back and shot interviews with Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and JD Samson, the team realized they had something more akin to a complete film on their hands.


Austinites often speak of feeling a singular bond with similarly motivated and energized Brooklyn, NY brethren. If you could give that feeling an appealing electronic beat, dance it out with some amusing choreography, and shout-sing about it, you get close to the night Brooklyn Local/Director Kerthy Fix world premiered the surprisingly endearing and oft-hilarious Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour at SXSW. To introduce Bomp, she encouraged the audience to get up and dance since, sadly, it's the closet you'll get to a Le Tigre show these days. In a film where continuity could be thrown out the window since the band's electronic foundations allow separate performances to be synched up, each captured song does send jolts through your sedentary body and—as multiple viewers mused after the screening—an uncontrollable urge to clap like you were actually there for the show. It's exciting. - NickGioBarbieri


               

 

Extras: 6

I was hoping that the audio commentary would shed some light on Le Tigre’s musical approach and compositional techniques.  Not so much.  That said, the group has a good time recalling this or that concert, their beginnings and “casting”, their sense of humor (which has “duh” written all over it) and how they came to feel like poster girls for GLTB and their reaction to it.  Once again Oscilloscope presents their DVD in a custom paper gatefold with artwork by Anna Higgie in the manner of graffiti wall paintings.  Brilliant!


               

 

Image: 2~7

In documentary fashion, director Kerthy Fix assembles footage from a variety of video sources that often as not have the feel of home movies.  As expected, the interview material looks great and the concert material is variable, and only rarely painful.  Oscilloscope’s job is to get out of their way, and this they do.  The bit rate is high enough, transfer artifacts are happily absent.


Audio & Music: 6/4

I’ll go out on a limb here and opine that Kerthy Fix sees her film as a documentary - but she cheats. . . in a truly clever and effective manner, I grant you. . . but it’s cheating all the same.  She cuts from one concert to another during any given song while using a constant audio source, which means that we never know what we are listening to in respect to what we see.  Is the audio for this concert or that or some studio mix, or what?  But like I said, it’s very sly, and so neatly done that it might take you a while to even notice it.


               

 

Recommendation: 7

O.K., I’ve been outed: I really don’t much care for Le Tigre.  I enjoy their often girlish (in the best sense of the word) enthusiasm, With the exception of a couple songs, I find their music so amusical that it qualifies only on technical grounds, with lyrics so deliberately buried that I need a score card just to know the words. Again, with some exceptions. All the same, I’m glad they do what they do, because I feel that those opposed to social fascism need all the support they can get, even if some of what the band members skirt the edges of “Girl Power” which can be a little infantile. As to the film itself, I think Ms Fix does a yeoman’s job of fashioning an honest and intimate testament to Le Tigre and what they are all about.  Worth a look.


                   



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

May 30, 2011

 

 

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