The ladies of dance-rock trio Le Tigre bandy the F-word about like a bunch of truck drivers if truckers said feminist a lot. A chat about pop tarts, for instance, prompts Kathleen Hanna to remark, without irony: ''I love Christina Aguilera. She has, like, mini-feminist messages.''Grassroots activism is as key to Le Tigre as tinted glasses are to Bono. So it's surprising that after years of earning indie cred, Tigre are courting the masses. Their bouncy third full-length, This Island, was just released on Strummer/Le Tigre/Universal and producers like Ric Ocasek have given their lo-fi beats and poll-sci cheers a radio-friendly sheen.
At the eye of the Tigre (remember 1999's giddy ''Deceptacon''?) is Hanna, famous for coining the phrase ''smells like Teen Spirit'' and fronting riot-grrrl act Bikini Kill. Like BK, Tigre (also including co-singers JD Samson and Johanna Fateman) have always marched to the beat of their own drum machine, though lately some wonder if they' ll lose their political bite. Says Fateman: ''Living under Bush is threaded through the songs. The election became our deadline.'' Still, going major has its compromises: For their first single, the band deferred to the label, which picked ''TKO'' over the less accessible ''After Dark.'' ''Choosing a single was totally new to us,'' admits Hanna. Also new: possible tie-ins. ''We want a line called Champons, the champagne of tampons,'' says Hanna. Adds Samson: ''It's like a party in your stall!''Hey, they're not afraid to think big.