Words: Elliott Sutton
“They just see a faggot,” Laura Jane Grace sings with violent conviction on the title track. Your breath catches, your jaw drops and your heart breaks a little bit. That’s the standard reaction at least. The aforementioned lyric obviously highlights Laura’s frustration and discontent with society’s attitudes towards transsexuals (Laura Jane Grace came out as a transsexual woman in 2012, she was previously known as Tom Gabel). Moving onto proceedings we have “True Trans Soul Rebel” – a song that harkens back to the charm of a band like The Smiths and then following this the rock and roll swagger of “Unconditional Love” which sounds like some sort of combination of Sex Pistols and Oasis. Following the aggressive “Drinking With The Jocks” and the eerie “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” we have the song Fuckmylife666 in which Grace sings the line “there’s a brave new world that’s raging inside of me,” a line full of passion and one that also sums up the listening experience; if this record doesn’t make you feel something then you should check your pulse because you might be dead.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a brave album for obvious reasons, and its subject matter is handled with punk rock defiance and unabashed tenderness in equal measure. Throughout its 29 minutes the album proves to be oddly beautiful even at its most abrasive moments (see the vitriolic punk rock of Drinking With The Jocks). Each lyric is delivered with the kind urgency that makes the record feel truly groundbreaking and Grace’s voice interchanges between heartfelt and hoarse on lines like “you’ve got no cunt in your strut, you’ve got no hips to shake”. Here, on their sixth album, punk act Against Me! have given us a record that explores uncharted territory within most musical circles – one can only applaud Laura Jane Grace in writing about her experiences and taking what is generally regarded as a taboo subject and throwing the truth about trans women in everyone’s faces. It is 2014 after all, who’s honestly got time for ignorance? The record is also alarmingly accessible and one can only hope that younger individuals experiencing similar things to Grace take as much from it as they possibly can, because even beneath the obvious subject matter the album still has universal themes of love, alienation and confusion. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is not just your average punk rock offering, it is one of vital importance and one that sounds like it wants to make a difference.
The brave new world Grace sings about is here. 9/10