The Review: Against Me!- “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

Posted: March 4, 2014 in Reviews

Now, this is punk rock. You may not have been able to say that so convincingly about Against Me!’s previous two LPS, which leaned more towards the mainstream rock side of things, but you certainly can here. This is Laura Jane Grace’s big fuck you to the world. I don’t think there are many songs more punk than “Black Me Out”, where the anger and venom is spewed out of Laura as if disgusting: “I wanna piss on the walls of your house”. I will not be talking about Laura’s decision to transition from male to female in this review, but needless to say, it forms the crux of the lyrical content of Transgender Dsyphoria Blues. Despite what I have already said about the fiery, inflammatory nature of this record, many of the themes are expressed in a hard-hitting,  poetic style. See “FUCKMYLIFE666” for instance:

Chipped nail polish and a barbed wire dress
Is your mother proud of your eyelashes?
Silicone chest, and collagen lips
How would you even recognize me?

Laura’s newest lyrical style has a way of putting her thoughts forward in a matter-of-fact fashion, while still remaining very expressive: “You want them to notice, the ragged ends of your summer dress/ You want them to see you like they see every other girl/ They just see a faggot/
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick” (“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”). The crux of the album’s arguments is most obviously expressed in “Paralytic States”, a gutting tale of a transgender prostitute: “Never quite the woman that she wanted to be”.

I said newest lyrical style, because, although this is unmistakably an Against Me! album, it is quite far removed from anything they have previously attempted. I mean, where does “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” fit in with the rest of the AM! back catalogue? A couple of the poppier songs, such as “Unconditional Love” could have fit in on White Crosses, while acoustic tune “Two Coffins” could possibly have fit on one of their Fat Wreck era records. But that is a stretch. It really feels like a new era for Against Me! Lots of new ideas are thrown at the wall, and, to their credit, almost all of it sticks, with the only real exception being the bizarre, ‘80s-metal like “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ”, which falls flat. But, all in all, this is as good as Against Me! have sounded in ages, or possibly, as good as they have ever sounded, depending on your viewpoint. If anyone tells you punk is dead, please ask them to first listen to “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”.

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