Label: Total Treble Music
Review by Alessandra Cognetta
The American punk rock band Against Me! is back with a new album. After their “White Crosses” (2010), the band went through a tour cancellation, a change in their line-up, the creation of their own label and, in 2012, Laura Jane Grace‘s coming out as a transgender woman. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” follows, musically, the path forged by their previous works, especially the earlier ones. It is, nevertheless, a chance for discovery and (self) introspection unlike anything I have ever listened to.
Most of the songs deal, obviously, with gender dysphoria, but this is not an autobiographic album. It is the vocal and lyrical expression of someone’s feelings, and a very powerful (and rough, at times) expression at that. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” starts off with the upbeat drums and the aggressive words of “Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and keeps up the trend for the first half, a bitter declamation that never loses honesty until the last note. One of the highlights is without a doubt “Drinking with the Jocks”, whose “there will always be a difference” will ring in your ears (and mind) for quite a while. “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ”, instead, marks a variation in theme and sound, with its warnings and historical references. “Dead Friend” and “Two Coffins” address a common theme, but in two completely different ways. The first song is aggressive, cynical at times, and shows the grieving of someone who still doesn’t accept what has happened. The second one is literarily romantic, almost a lullaby, with its acoustic guitar, certainly a surprising element in Against Me!‘s work, lulling you into sleep, yes, but also reminiscence and reflection. The album is closed by the sharp “Paralytic States” and by “Black Me Out”, which is, as it has already been pointed out, a critic to the record industry, if only on the surface. The sound is overall good, essential and able to focus the listener’s attention exactly where it wants, but there’s something more.
What struck me about Against Me!‘s latest effort is that it’s well-crafted music, yes, easy on the ears (not in the pejorative sense, of course), music that I found myself humming for days and yet that left me with a sense of inner unrest. A lot of different feelings are conveyed: anger, mostly, but also anxiety, fear and insecurity. It’s brave, straightforward and sincere music. Something we definitely need more of.
Rating – 90/100
- Transgender Dysphoria Blues
- True Trans Soul Rebel
- Unconditional Love
- Drinking with the Jocks
- Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ
- Dead Friend
- Two Coffins
- Paralytic States
- Black Me Out
- Laura Jane Grace – Lead vocals, guitar, bass
- James Bowman – Guitar, backing vocals
- Fat Mike – Bass (tracks 3, 6)
- Atom Willard – Drums, percussion