Take a trenchantly independent band, throw a major-label budget and a big-name producer on top -- and the result is usually total crap. But Le Tigre has been dodging expectations since its inception, and This Island, the group's third full-length, maintains its steady arc toward dance-pop immortality. With the help of famed Sonic Youth and Public Enemy producer Nicholas Sansano -- not to mention Universal's fat piggy bank -- Kathleen Hanna and friends have upgraded their clunky electro-punk to a sleek machine fueled by riffs, samples, and bunker-busting beats. Fluctuating from Peaches screech to Saint Etienne sophistication, these 13 tracks take the group's hip-wrenching energy and make it bigger, bolder, and bitchier -- not to mention catchier than a flesh-eating virus. There's even a vamped-out cover of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" that's so damn good, you'll forget about every NFL commercial you've ever heard blasting the original. Ponder, if you must, the trio's riot-grrrl roots and feminist agenda. In the end, it's all about the shaggy, feral force of rhythm and noise. And on This Island, Le Tigre makes the fur fly. -- Jason Heller
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