Saturday, January 25, 2014

Album Review: 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' by Against Me!

Title:  Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble Music, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

 Simply put, Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues is brilliant.  The concept record tells the story of a transsexual prostitute but what makes it so compelling is how guitarist and lead singer Laura Jean Grace has crafted these songs with such grace that they are not only some of the catchiest the band has ever released, but they take an extremely difficult topic and make it understandable and relatable for the listener.  Grace has always been a passionate singer and songwriter but this record is different and just showcases how freaking good she really is.  AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said it much better than I ever could in his review
By design, Transgender Dysphoria Blues pushes Laura Jane Grace's story to the forefront. She and Bowman cleverly constructed the album to be musically universal and lyrically specific, easing listeners into identifying with a struggle they may otherwise deem foreign. Jettisoning any of the amorphous explorations of White Crosses, not to mention the folk-punk of their earliest records ("Two Coffins" comes the closest to folk), Against Me! favors nervy, direct rock & roll, the kind that can fill either a club or stadium -- singalongs inspired by Strummer and Springsteen and any number of their followers, populist punk that underpins songs that tell the tale of an individual experience. Perhaps the details pertain to Grace's life and perhaps they don't; ultimately it doesn't matter because Transgender Dysphoria Blues powerfully conveys the experience of transgender dysphoria: the knowing that you don't belong in the body in which you were born, the alienation that follows, the acceptance that comes with confession, and yet that move doesn’t soothe all the pain. The trick of the album is how the music -- simple, hookier than most Against Me! music -- sells the story, underscoring the universal elements of this very specific story. This is the gateway into Transgender Dysphoria Blues, but what resonates is that very individual experience: how Laura Jane Grace has turned her public acceptance of who she is into punk poetry.
I couldn’t agree more.  2014 has just started but we are going to be hard pressed to find a record better than this before the end of year.

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