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Review: 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' by Against Me!

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'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' by Against Me!

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Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the first full-length album by Against Me! since guitarist and vocalist Tom Gabel made the admirable and courageous step to realize outside the female that resided within, renaming herself Laura Jane Grace. This has not affected Against Me’s sound, as it is still marked by that ever so effective tug-o’-war between raucous folk-punk and dirty punk rock. It is the lyrical content that has shifted to a point, focusing largely on coming to terms with being a transgendered individual in a society that has come a long way but is still somewhat hung-up on sexual identity and gender expectations. As such, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is unquestionably Laura Jane Grace’s most personal one to date—a ride she has documented in song and invited us to experience with her.

From the first song on the new album, which also happens to be the title track, one gets a clear sense of the degree to which Laura has struggled with her transition. Dysphoria, by definition, means “strong unease and general dissatisfaction with life,” though I wager the process of mirroring one’s external with one’s internal self, as it were, would improve one’s life considerably in the long run. And I got the feeling while listening to the album that she is simply trying to purge whatever negative feelings have resulted from it all through catharsis, to sort things out by singing and playing about it. These thoughts and feelings resonate throughout the album, like in “True Trans Soul Rebel,” the following track, which carries on with similar subject matter, proving that this TDB isn’t just for Against Me! fans but for Laura Jane Grace, and probably more the latter than the former. That is fine, since Against Me! have already given us so much in the way of powerful, relatable and enduring music. To be sure, Against Me’s songs have never lacked form or substance, and the new material assures us that that is still the case.

Of course, there are also a couple of songs that embrace the good old Against Me! anarchic stance and social and political issues, like “Osama Bin Laden As the Crucified Christ.” And then there are gritty, high-energy rockers that touch on sensitive life topics, like “F**KMYLIFE666.” All of this coalesces the old Against Me with the new, from the Crime… EP on Plan-It-X Records (later on Sabot Records) to the White Crosses album on Fat Wreck. If you haven’t already, take the trip through the years of Against Me!—from Crime, the Acoustic EP, Reinventing Axl Rose, The Eternal Cowboy, Searching For A Former Clarity, New Wave, White Crosses, to Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

For this album, it seems that Against Me! have departed from their place in the Fat Wreck Chords stable of artists and released it on Total Treble. Having been released January 21, 2014, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is available now from the iTunes, Amazon, and Total Treble. Enjoy!

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