About one minute into the lead track, front-woman Laura Jane Grace snarls, “you want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress, you want them to see you like they see every other girl, they just see a faggot, they’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick” … and the gauntlet is thrown down. What Against Me!’s new album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, offers is a mixture of attitude and bravado that pulls together an emotion, weight, and gravitas that I’ve felt missing from music for a while. The lyrics contain something actually worth saying and while the sing-a-long choruses may get stuck in your head, there’s an underlying message that expels itself in a way unique to music — one that travels from head to heart and leads to rumination long after the guitars and drums dissipate.
I’ve listened to this album roughly six times over the past few days and I am still searching for a way to describe an album that deserves to be heard far more than it deserves to be praised or detailed by my words. While I’ve enjoyed the past few Against Me! albums (more than most long-time fans), I feel as though they’ve been building to this. There will always be those that wish the band go back to the “sound” of their early work. However, on this album there’s a combination of grit and harmony that mixes together in an addictive cocktail of punk-rock, pop, and americana. While not containing the raw production of the band’s earliest EPs, there’s a similar “fuck you if you don’t like it” sentiment that runs through many of the songs. That’s what I’ve felt has been missing.
Personal favorites on the initial run throughs include “Two Coffins,” “Drinking with the Jocks,” and “Paralytic States.” My only complaint is that the 10 songs go by too fast, and with the entire album clocking in just under 30 minutes … you’re left wanting more by the time it ends. However, even with that minor complaint there’s not a whole lot of negative for me to say — this is an album that sets out to make a statement and I believe it succeeds. I recommend it based upon the guttural punch it delivers lyrically while maintaining a sense of melody born in basements and long southwestern drives.