Review Summary: Transgender Dysphoria Blues is catchy and important as fuck. Listen to it.
You could write entire essays on the importance of Laura Jane Grace making the full switch to a woman, about what it means for Transexuals in modern society and culture, what it could mean for a traditionally patriarchal (and surprisingly intolerant) punk rock scene, and what her coming out means for so many people across the world. Transgender Dysphoria Blues
is a bit late to be considered a coming out party for Laura, and has so much thematically in common with it’s predecessor White Crosses
that claims of it being a new awakening for Against Me! are a tad bit exaggerated, it’s such a stunning and important stamp on popular rock music that it completely validates all the attention and anticipation it has gotten.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues
immediately kicks you in the face, as the title track spits some of the most brutally honest and bracing lyrics Laura has ever written. Lines like “You want them to see you/Like they see any other girl/They just see a faggot” and “You've got no cunt in your strut” are incredibly self-deprecating in the most violent of ways, and set-up the themes of self dissatisfaction and gender alienation that make up the album. Even on the more upbeat songs, she sings facetious and tongue-in-cheek hooks like “Is your mother proud of your eyelashes?/Silicone chest and collagen lips/How would you even recognize me?” (Fu
Whereas the lyrics are obviously focused on Laura’s trials and tribulations as a transgendered woman pre- and post-coming out, the impact that has on their sound is what is even more striking. While still Tom Gabel, she sounded occasionally deflated and lifeless on previous album White Crosses
, and even though Transgender Dysphoria Blues
retains much of what was great about that album (tight songwriting, anthemic choruses and pristine hooks), Against Me! hasn't sounded this energetic and alive for ten years. While the shortened album length surely helps, as at 29 minutes it’s their shortest record since As the Eternal Cowboy
, Laura brings a gravitas and ferociousness that is more immediate and impacting than almost anyone else in punk rock. They've found the perfect melding of the Bruce Springsteen arena rock and late 90’s/early 00’s punk rock that they’ve been trying to achieve for the past few records, and the result is an album full of life and meaning.
While most of Transgender Dysphoria Blues
is incredibly dark and often vicious, it’s all brought to a head with “Black Me Out”, an anthem rejecting all of the hate and self-loathing the rest of the album has built up and established, replacing it with an invigorating sense of ‘*** you’. Where penultimate track “Paralytic States” ends on the foreboding note of “No resolutions for the new year beginning tomorrow”, the first verse of “Black Me Out” triumphantly states “I don't ever want to talk that way again/I don't want to know people like that anymore/As if there was an obligation/As if I owed you something”. It’s a song that firmly embraces the fact that there shouldn't need to be a dialogue about things like transgendered people, gay marriage, and anyone else facing the stigma of a society rooted in three hundred year old prejudices. It’s her final statement: a rejection of the fact that in 2014, Laura Jane Grace needs to make an album about people who just want acceptance to be who the fu
ck they are. Transgender Dysphoria Blues
might be the most important album of the year, and its message will hopefully seep into music culture and spread till records like this don’t *have* to get made anymore.
But maybe not until we get the sequel, Transgender Dysphoria Blues 2: Electric Boogaloo
, eh Laura?