This Island

Sometimes the end justifies the means. Sometimes subversion is best served from behind the iron gates of a corporation. Other times, your heroes get bored with all of those troubling "politics" and "ethics" that they founded the last decade of their career on, get completely caught up in the proliferation of their own celebrity persona, and put out a record like This Island. To clarify: I'm not generally the sort who takes a band's jump from indie to major label as some sort of personal betrayal--and I've had every hope that Le Tigre's major label debut would in fact justify itself. But to call Le Tigre's new album a disappointment doesn't begin to do justice to just how desperately they blew it--musically, conceptually, and politically. Kathleen Hanna is finally handed the potential means to speak to every teenage girl in America, and the best she can muster is "Peace Up, War Down"? In tandem with the major-label party vibe throughout, the missteps are enough to nearly nullify a discography that, until now, I've held a great deal of reverence for. I mean, who really killed the Riot Grrrl? ZAC PENNINGTON

The Snuggle Ups
Extremely Popular
(Lucky Madison)

"The Snuggle Ups" is the kind of band name that makes me spit out my drink, but in this case it's so dorky-darling that it perfectly suits the music. A duo of electro-guitar dudes, The Snuggle Ups' premiere, Extremely Popular, is a showcase of the energetic, gleeful style that their local shows have become known for. Lyrics like "Your love is like organic produce/ Once you've tried it you can't get enough" sung at warped speed capture the carefree, lovey boy sweetness of their sound. The slower jams are a little less spastic and interesting, slipping into predictable synth song patterns. Their strongest suit is certainly in the bright, robot dance-inspiring, shamelessly adoring love songs sung with wide-open arms. It's like being inside the diary of an unselfconscious hipster who whirls from crush to crush, grinning down at his aerodynamic sneakers, its most passionate moments making your heart jump out of your chest. MARJORIE SKINNER

Wet From Birth
(Saddle Creek)

As the sun starts to burn out on the cocaine retro dance party (and thank god it is--I'm so tired of not remembering the last three months of my life), the no-talent-needed dance bands of the past several years will burn out and die, as well. So, why did The Faint squander their time to totally capitalize on this phenomenon? The question is something of an un-answerable Zen riddle, since the product, Wet From Birth, sounds like a carbon copy of their last two successful records. But is the album bad? Actually, no. If you're already a fan, your tight jeans will just get tighter. If you're not, you can just borrow the album from your little sister. MANU BERELLI

**** John Kerry
*** Ralph Nader
** Michael Badnarik
* George W. Bush