Unpopular opinion time: truly great music is purely autobiographical. While that statement is, in fact, purely opinionated (I don’t know what your local band writes about), it’s hard to deny that there is a surefire difference in listening to subject matter that really means something to the writer rather than torturing yourself with the songs that don’t account for anything. Laura Jane Grace is here to make sure that you pay attention to what really matters, and she’s coming out guns blazing in the form of Against Me!‘s bombastic new record Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re sure to know that May of 2012 was a vital month in Against Me!’s career and more so frontwoman Grace’s life, shedding her skin and coming out as transgender in a truly brave fashion, with a killer Rolling Stone piece in tow. Here she stands, almost two years after bringing her true self to light, with a ten-track record to chronicle her journey of coming to terms with herself, her friends, and most importantly, the people who simply don’t fucking matter.
The album opens with the title track, which has become my first favorite song of 2014. The lyrics are raw, the chorus is catchy as hell, and the song just purely sounds like the classic Against Me! we all know and love. This song was the first taste any fan got of the record as Grace performed it solo on the Revival Tour a couple of months prior to coming out, and hot DAMN is it a killer opening number. The next track was first heard in acoustic fashion on July’s True Trans EP. “True Trans Soul Rebel” acts as Grace’s way of saying that things will get better if persistence and perseverance are in charge in the face of adversity: “Who’s gonna take you home tonight? / Does God bless your transsexual heart?”
Grace walks a tightrope with “Unconditional Love”, an ode to her close relationships: “Even if your love was unconditional / It still wouldn’t be enough to save me.” “Drinking With the Jocks” is a perspective into how to deal with narrow-minded people in your life, encouraging us to make ourselves heard rather than sit aside and force out a quip or breath of sarcastic laughter. “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” offers taboo political/religious topics in pure Against Me! fashion: “You’re gonna hang like Benito from the Esso rafters. / Hang like Clara with her skull caved in. / Hang like a cross around my neck. / You’re gonna hang.” The song sadly appears to be taboo simply for the sake of being taboo, but if anyone can get away with it, it’s them.
The second half of the True Trans EP held (my favorite title for any song ever) “FuckMyLife666”, which is the most important track on the record alongside the opener. The song gives insight to what hiding really is/was for Grace and a reminder to never go down without a fight: “Is your mother proud of your eyelashes?” and “Don’t wanna live without teeth. / Don’t wanna die without bite.”
“Dead Friend” is an homage to a fallen friend of Grace’s, “the most real person that I’ve ever met.” The song is a loud tragedy in which Grace repeats “God dammit / Goddamn, I miss my dead friend.” Following is “Two Coffins”, the ballad of the record. Written (most likely) for Grace’s wife Heather, the track showcases Grace’s vocal range in full form, still holding on to that staple of Against Me!’s music. I’m calling it, here and now, that YouTube covers of this track will soar.
The energy picks up again with “Paralytic States”, which chronicles the transition Grace has made and the transition she’s still in the middle of performing: “She spent the last years of her life / Running from the boy she used to be. / Cut her face wide open / Shaved the bone down thin / Plumped her lips up exaggerated / A fucked up kind of feminine.” The album closes with the raucous middle finger to the musical big-whigs in the form of “Black Me Out”. It simply wouldn’t be an Against Me! record without a track like this one and the band stays true to form with the lyrics “I wanna piss on the walls of your house. / I wanna chop those brass rings / Off your fat fucking fingers. / As if you were a king-maker.”
A personal peeve of mine is to put the rest of a band aside from the front. Let it be known that band mainstay James Bowman and newly-enlisted drummer Atom Willard (ex-Angels & Airwaves) were not overlooked here. Given that the subject matter of the record and the entire process was publicly on Grace’s shoulders, it was hard not to focus on her for the majority. Willard has found a fantastic new home in Against Me! and Bowman continues to impress with his exceptional work.
Laura Jane Grace has demanded our attention with this record. She’s not one for asking quietly and she shouldn’t have to do so. We’ve been given an inside look into a troubled soul that is on the road to coming to terms with herself at mach five speed and she refuses to go down without a fight.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is out now on Total Treble.