Words by Bill San Antonio
Perhaps the most understated aspect of Tommy Gabel’s public coming out as Laura Jane Grace in Rolling Stone two years ago was the impact the changes in her life would make on her songwriting. Of course, that was to be expected – in a generation where the gay, lesbian, questioning and transsexual community has been accepted by mainstream society like never before, Grace’s shocking and ferocious declaration made her the obvious and convenient face of modern alternative culture, fair or not. And, well, that’s a pretty big deal. Amid the sudden attention, Grace’s role fronting Against Me! was now as trivial as the meaning ascribed to each of her tattoos.
It is nearly impossible to consider Against Me!’s sixth studio album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, without grounding it in Grace’s Rolling Stone admissions. After all, the record’s title is derived from the very gender identity disorder Grace lived with for most of her life as Gabel. Teased as a concept album following a transgendered prostitute Transgender Dysphoria Blues provides a solid look into Grace’s no-longer-secret life without ripping too much from her personal headlines, if memorable primarily for its newsworthy subject matter. Grace’s lyrics run the gamut of wrestled emotions, from concern over societal response to her gender identity issues (“Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” “Unconditional Love”) to her personal acceptance as a transgender (“True Trans Soul Rebel”) and the aggressive apathy and bliss having finally shared her secret with the world (“Black Me Out”). The result is a band that has reclaimed its sense of purpose and is focused in a way that, so deep into its career, Against Me! could have easily lost in the fallout of Grace’s revelation.
The band’s most aggressive statement on Transgender Dysphoria Blues comes with “Drinking With the Jocks,” Grace’s middle finger to the ideas of traditional masculinity via a fast-paced night of fear and loathing with the Cool Kids who could easily “look at all of them bitches” and “fill them up with cum.” Grace is finally one of the guys on this track, accepted as the man Tommy Gabel never was in their eyes. Against Me! abandons its heartland punk motif and mocks the jocks with its arrangement – loud, fast and lacking in complexity, either sonically or lyrically. The band takes on a sound that is primal and testosterone-riddled, but crescendos as Grace unleashes a rebellious melody into the chaos in proudly singing, “There will always be a difference between me and you.”
“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
© January 21st, 2014
TheWaster.com | Listen Up