With Tom Gabel’s stunning recasting as Laura Jane Grace, Against Me!‘s future seemed somewhat in doubt. But the band’s first album with Gabel as a woman, Against Me! makes their best album in nearly a decade.
It is partially because the band has something to unify around. 2003’s Against Me! as the Eternal Cowboy found Gabel and company unified around the political fervor. Eleven years later, the band is able to coalesce around Laura Jane Grace, telling her tale. It begins with the album’s titular track, a song that sounds like something off of Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose with its rolling country drum beat and punk attitude. But the track’s content is definitely the new Against Me! Gone are the political fervor, replaced with a more personal tale. Laura Jane Grace sings “You want them to see you they see every other girl/they just see a faggot/They hold their breath not to catch the sick.” Although it is personal, it has a broader universal message illuminating the struggle of many of the transgender community.
Similarly, “True Trans Soul Rebel” tells the tale of a transexual suicide. Singing lines like “Does god bless your transsexual heart, True Trans Soul Rebel?” and ending with “Slit your veins wide open/you bleed it out.” But while the song could be a real downer, its covered up by a Minutemen-esque punk feel.
That seems to the rub for most of the album. Although the song subjects are heavy, the energy is unrelenting from the band with the lone exception of “Two Caskets” which happens to also be the weakest track on the album. The energy makes the album highly listenable but the lyrics make the album important. In a world where homosexuality is quickly becoming tolerated if not accepted, transgender still feels like the orientation no one wants to discuss. What Laura Jane Grace does on the album is lay it all on the line, humanizing a societal taboo with aplomb and dignity. For that the album should be applauded.