Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)

Let me tell you right now that it’s been a good long while since I’ve given a shit about the recorded output of Against Me! Ten years, in fact. Sure, there was something delightful in hearing the band rebuke the naïve, tattooed beard dream of humorless cultural upheaval that was White Crosses’ “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” but for the most part, I thought the record was stale and forgettable. I didn’t give New Wave more than one full pop spin before punching Butch Vig in the face and though Christina assures me there is one song that I really like on Searching for a Former Clarity, I’m pretty sure she’s drunk which brings us to As the Eternal Cowboy which…you know…come to think of it…I didn’t really like that record all that much either though “Cliché Gueverra” is a track I sing to myself on a daily basis. Yes the album was punch drunk. Yes it was crisp and urgent and brash. But by the time of its release I was already feeling overwhelmed by the smug, unwashed throngs of Florida beard rock midges shout/sing/screaming half-baked poetry with unsustainably leftist leanings over aggro acoustic instrumentation.

And no, I’m not one of those rabid purists who think the band’s significance begins and ends with Reinventing Axl Rose even though “Pints of Guinness Makes You Strong” makes me shamelessly misty every time but I think it’s safe to concede that particular record was a glorious ramble of earnest imperfection whose blood and sweat and basement hope were just so goddamn immediate as to make punk feel like the vital everyman uprising worth believing in again.

That is to say I liked that record a lot and enjoyed the hell out of some of the band’s earlier, less unpolished endeavors (Crime as Forgiven by… being particularly choice) back in the early turns of 2000 but I was never such a fan of the Against Me! proper because I just can’t sing along to a career of sociopolitical tropes which – I suppose – is why it’s so goddamn difficult for me to get with punk any more. I have my own problems, you know? I don’t need to abide by a bunch of white guys trying to get me riled up over the disparity of economic policy or the disambiguation of American justice or Reagan (yes, he’s still a topic of conversation) whose paranoid hubris shaped the great slow ruin of American influence or any topic so obtuse and oppressive as to leave me feeling smaller than I do when I start my already meaningless day at 5am as a dulling cog in the unnamable, unencumbered system whose avarice has changed our fields of communal prosperity into killing grounds and…ugh…I don’t even want to think about it.

Mercifully, the Against Me! on Transgender Dysphoria Blues is not the Against Me! of the last decade. One could even argue that, with Tom Gabel’s coming out as transgender and transitioning to Laura Jane Grace (Blues marking her recorded debut), the Against Me! of today is a whole different band, a band that never could have emerged from backwaters of Gainesville in 1997 to become anything other than a queer novelty or another in a long line of LGBT casualties.

And there is something to be said for that argument. Certainly Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a record that would not exist without Ms. Grace’s particular narrative but if we negate that for just a moment, we’re left with as tight and true a set of songs as the band’s delivered in a good long while. It’s got that Johnny come marching home again drumming, some beach rock light melody, melodramatic ballads and more than a few choice instances of that Götterdämmerung roar that made Against Me! such a sweet gut punch. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s aces cover to cover because “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” is fucking ridiculous but, on the whole, it’s pretty damn solid. Decent, certainly. It’s even kind of fun.

Now, when we do take into account what Ms. Grace has to say (though not – necessarily – how she says it), this record gets ratcheted straight from fuckin’ a okay to goddamn revolutionary. I mean, seriously. I have never heard someone articulate the experience of being transgendered in any immediate way, let alone in the context of a band best known for beards and screams and broad swathing politics and I suppose that’s where Against Me! really grabbed me this time around. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a transparent and personal record. It’s glorious. It’s ugly. It’s stupid and funny and awkward and angry and proud and unsure and, ultimately, empowering. It’s fucking human is what it is and there is nothing more punk than humanity.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues Tracklist:
01 – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
02 – True Trans Soul Rebel
03 – Unconditional Love
04 – Drinking With The Jocks
05 – Obama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ
06 – FuckMyLife666
07 – Dead Friend
08 – Two Coffins
09 – Paralytic States
10 – Black Me Out

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues, reviewed by Charles on 2014-01-22T09:00:01-08:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

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