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Posted on January 18th, 2014 (10:22 am) by Theresa Flanagan

Words by: Carol Bruggeman—whose overwhelmingly enthusiastic initial endorsement of the record was a begrudgingly skeptical "I don't hate it."

Nearly two years after singer Laura Jane Grace came out in Rolling Stone as transgender, Florida punk veterans Against Me! return with their sixth full-length album, likely their most anticipated. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is undoubtedly a coming out album, allowing Grace to fearlessly flaunt her gender identity instead of dropping scattered, subtle hints as in past works. The first and title track sets the tone for the album—bitter and biting and yet deeply personal—with the striking, “You want them to see you like they see every other girl / They just see a faggot.” The album waxes and wanes in intensity, segueing next into the more brooding "True Trans Soul Rebel" and then into “Unconditional Love,” in which the poppy backing harmonies almost manage to disguise the tune as a sycophant love song. Then comes “Drinking with the Jocks” like a brick through a Starbucks window—a delicious, shouted trip back into the bowels of high school exclusion. The rest of the album follows in this vein—relenting, lashing out, and then deftly pulling you back in for the remainder of its brisk, purposeful twenty-nine minutes.

With gender dysphoria being the most prominent theme, Grace admits to continued gender frustration in songs such as "Paralytic States" where she croons “Standing naked in front of that hotel bathroom mirror / In her dysphoria’s reflection, she still saw her mother’s son.” Grace also touches on more universally relatable issues—the death of a friend, social detachment, and good, old-fashioned, punk rock indignation. Grace’s renewed fury is refreshing, especially in the wake of White Crosses, the band’s 2010 notably tamer, radio rock friendly release. At times unapologetically aggressive and jerkingly explicit, Grace’s distinct and yet unchanged voice brims with raw passion and anger, reminiscent of the band’s earlier independent label works. And though the album is lyrically a bit disquieting, hearing Grace sing about her new identity is oddly comforting—like hearing an old friend finally open up to you after all these years.

With noodly guitar leads and catchy hooks distracting from but not detracting from the harshness of the lyrics, it takes very little for the album to become infectious, especially with the album’s final track “Black Me Out,” which nests and festers (in a completely agreeable way) with its sneering refrain of, “I wanna piss on the walls of your house,” making a second listen through inescapable. I found myself drawn to this album in quite the same way that I was drawn into the mosh pit at my first AM! show in the tenth grade—a little hesitantly and inexplicably and hoping for more abuse. Under the vocal command of Grace, the band delivers one of their most solid efforts, managing to stay perennially relevant in a storm of tattooed, screaming punk rockers. Transgender Dysphoria Blues sees Grace revisiting her punk rock roots with a new adoption of a “this is who I really am and I really don’t give a fuck” attitude.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues is due out on January 21 through AM!'s own record label, Total Treble. Check it out streaming on NPR.

Track List:
1. Transgender Dysphoria Blues
2. True Trans Soul Rebel
3. Unconditional Love
4. Drinking with the Jocks
5. Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ
6. FUCKMYLIFE666
7. Dead Friend
8. Two Coffins
9. Paralytic States
10. Black Me Out

Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

80 / 100
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