Review: Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Against_Me

“Even if your love was unconditional, it still wouldn’t be enough to save me.” – “Unconditional Love”

Against Me! are back after a rather lengthy absence. The most notable aspect of the band since their last release has, of course, been Laura Jane Grace coming out as a transgender. Despite these personal changes, Against Me! have come back with everything they have, delivering a powerful and honest grunge pop album in Transgender Dysphoria Blues that more than makes up not only for the amount of time between albums, but for 2010’s rather lackluster White Crosses.

If you were a fan of the band’s first major label record New Wave, then you know what to expect in terms of sound. The guitars are rolling hills of punk, with subtle traces of the rockabilly sound of earlier Against Me! albums mixed with the crisp chord structure of early Green Day. While the general sound hasn’t changed much from the last few albums, the songs are without a doubt at a much higher standard, equal parts memorable anthems, incredibly catchy lyrics and heartfelt honesty.

Lyrically, the album is astounding; there’s simply nothing else like it out there thematically. Technically a concept album about a transgender prostitute, I found myself listening over and over again to the lyrics. Laura Jane Grace’s voice is loud and impossible to ignore, but slightly monotonous save for pitch. Despite this, the pain of being someone confused about their gender and the fear of disclosing it and facing society bleeds through.

Laura held nothing back lyrically, using the harsh language usually avoided by most artists trying not to accidentally get a reputation for being homophobic. However, there is no other way the lyrics could’ve been written. They dig painfully deep, but retain a sense of playfulness that stands out where it needs to. “You’ve got no c*nt in your strut / You’ve got no hips to shake / And you know it’s obvious / But we can’t choose how we’re made”, she sings on the albums opening title track. It’s an example of how she’s able to use arguably the most offensive language in today’s language to illustrate the frustration and despair of being transgender while maintaining pride and a general sense of humor.

“Drinking With the Jocks”, a straight up punk song, stood out to me as one of the most demonizing on the album. It describes the most basic form of misogynistic and bigoted men looking at women and homosexuals, attacking with a growl as each lyric is delivered in rage, while the chorus continuously repeats “All of my life, all of my life / Wishing I was one of them”. It’s endlessly ironic and sad; quite possibly the only hard punk song I can think of that made me want to cry.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn’t a perfect album, and fans of the band’s early catalog will find the same complaints with it as they have the last few albums. While each song is good, there are a couple that aren’t as memorable as the others (“Dead Friend”), but the songs that stand out are among the best in the industry and demonstrate why Against Me! have such a loyal following. However, it’s incredibly short, clocking in at just under half an hour.

Against Me! have planted one of the most unique and honest albums in the scene while retaining their signature sound. If White Crosses chased you away, Transgender Dysphoria Blues will win you back. Almost every song demands to be sung along to and could become new staples at all live shows. This album won’t just be remembered because of the debut of Laura Jane Grace, but because of the incredibly memorable songs it houses.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

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