The Album: Synopsis and History:
Originally slated as a concept album that follows the life of a trangendered prostitute that has now morphed into a personal confession, of sorts, of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace and her public transformation Against Me! has given fans their most intimate glimpse into an artist in some time. In order for this album to come out the band’s lineup has changed, moved from a major label to their own indy, Total Treble, and has taken four years to debut. (I could go more in depth here but feel that would detract from the album itself)
The Good: (I must preface this with saying that I was alread a huge Against Me! fan so I will admit to a little bias)
There is so much good in this album I don’t rightly know where to start. Running time. At 29 minutes there is no filler and they get right to the point making it crisp, concise and straight to the point. More often than not concept albums get to be grandiose and bloated. Sometimes they turn out great (Titus Andronicus’ “The Monitor,” or even Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”), other times you get an album that has flashes of brilliance but loses the audience inbetween (The Clash, “Sandanista.”).
Lyrics. LJG pulls no punches and doesn’t let the album get p.c. or mired in commercial appeal. In the opening title track she sings about wanting to be seen like other girls but instead being viewed as just a faggot. Then follows questions of how does God see a trans person, the desire to fit in, denegrated as an enemy or lifted up, loss of friends, a sincere ballad to her daughter, and striking back at the world. I’ll admit that this is a base over simplification of the lyrics of the album but I could spend too much time analyzing each song and I feel that is something you should explore yourself.
Production. I’ve read too many commentors on other sites bemoan the production of this album saying it was under produced. First, Fuck You. Second, what do you want? It was these same commentors that hated “New Wave,” and “White Crosses” because they were over produced. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of either album though with plenty of time I can enjoy them as they are. (side note: if you mix those albums in with an all songs playlist that jumbles them alphabetically they mix in well) With this album Against Me! returns to the diy roots and does it all in-house. I had no trouble hearing the lyrics, feeling the hit of the instruments or following along. Plus, with them doin it themselves I got a sense of nostalgia and felt a throwback to early AM! albums.
Black Me Out. The closing track that any fan has heard already doesn’t disappoint. If, in the last four years, you’ve seen them play live or sought out new songs on YouTube you may have already come across it. Hearing it produced and from a studio doesn’t take anything away fom the song, in fact, I think it solidifies it as one of their staple songs that any fan will continue to sing along to at shows. (It is my favortie on the album)
The Bad and The Ugly:
I honestly don’t have anything to put in these categories about the album itself. Here I’d like to address Entertainment Weekly’s twitter style review of the album (because, lets face it, it’s not shit by Beyonce or Lorde nor holds the commercial appeal of Top 40). They said the album could benefit from some catchy hooks that would be radio friendly. I think they missed the point of the album entirely and will be on the wrong side of history on this one. If the album had those pop-style catchy hooks the album could have suffered from a watering down effect. As it is, the album is gritty while remaining crisp and direct.
It is my hope that this band and album help expose the flaws in the scene that I love and helps correct the stain that goes counter to what punk itself stands for. For too long we’ve allowed racism, sexism, homophobia run rampant through our genre. Like Leftover Crack once stated, we speak of unity but then divide ourselves along those lines. There are so many talented artist in our scene that don’t get a fair shake because of fear and hate. Maybe exposing that flaw and speaking openly about it will help start the discussion that leads to change.
So, Against Me! “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” gets five stars, or two thumbs up….whatever. Listen to the album and make your own decision because in the end...I’m only half assing it.