Monday, January 27, 2014

Against Me! Sings Transgender Blues

Against Me
It wasn't long after the release of the brilliant reissue White Crosses/Black Crosses that lead singer Tom Gabel announced his decision to take the name Laura Jane Grace and begin living as a woman. While some people wondered what that might mean for the singer's career, Grace started giving audiences a glimpse of things to come with her song Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

Along with that song, Grace has slugged out nine more tracks to make up an intensely personal album, one that comes at you out of nowhere with its powerful and torturous work. It isn't long even, as you listen to it, that the whole thing feels familiar to anyone who has felt like an outcast.

This isn't an album about transgender dysphoria exclusively, but a dark and painful presentation of how everybody needs acceptance even they have a hard time accepting themselves. Even with some alternation in the vocals and a shorter album, it is worth checking out.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues is riveting in its transparency.

There is no question that Grace feels uncertain of the band's future. In recent interviews, she admits that she isn't sure where this might end. After all the lineup changes and label battles, it is a wonder she was able to release such a personal snapshot. It will leave a permanent mark on music history.

Here is the first single as Grace played it shortly after coming out. While many fans knew she hinted at gender issues in a handful of songs, this was one of the first times she addressed it straight up. The video is an amazing fan capture.

Most of the album follows up with equally strong, well-constructed material that is part personal and part universal. True Trans Soul Rebel is the former, telling a poignant tale about loneliness and self- doubt. Like a punch to the head, Grace even questions if God could ever bless her.

Unconditional Love alludes to personal transparency but remains more universal in its ability to reflect on accepting desperation. While it lacks the sheer power of previous Against Me! songs, it creates a curious bridge between mixed emotions.

Feel free to skip the next two. The remaining two songs might be of interest, but don't seem to have the same punch. Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ is meant to be a political statement related to Benito Mussolini but never delivers anything that anyone would want to rage over. Drinking With The Jocks is a short lament about not being one of the guys when you are hanging with the guys.

Grace makes up for it with FuckMyLife666, which has some of the strongest songwriting on the album. It's a daring testament to making a decision you know is the right one, even if it might kill you in the process. It's excruciating and accepting at the same time, with words that allude to being a skeleton before she even begins to celebrate the brave new world that is raging.

Two Coffins strikes a chord within the context that nothing will ever be the same. Paralytic States is a concept track about a transexual prostitute. And the closer, Black Me Out, is the best track on the album in its arrangement, power, and impeccable ability to express exactly want ought to be thought of people who expect something from you. Tell them to black you out.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues By Against Me! Rages 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The album is one of the most important ever released by Against Me! but that doesn't necessarily mean it is the best album. The pick of the album includes Transgender Dysphoria Blues, FuckMyLife666, Two Coffins, and Black Me Out. As a single, Black Me Out would see nines.

You can find Transgender Dysphoria Blues on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes or order Transgender Dysphoria Blues from Barnes & Noble. You can keep track of shows by visiting Facebook. There is also a great article worth the read in Village Voice. Rich Becker contributed to this review.
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