If you have listened to rock in the last decade and you pay some attention to what bands are doing, then you are familiar with Against Me! and their lead singer Laura Jane Grace’s transgender identity shift. From that experience two amazing albums emerged vaulting the credibility of the heretofore non-descript punk of Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues and Shape Shift with Me. So to call this side project a breakout is misleading; but, since it is a new band, and since the sound is different, I think it fits.
Laura Jane Grace’s songwriting and distinctive voice combine to be equal parts sardonic, loving, and furious. Several years removed from embracing her trans identity, the album has moved beyond the difficulty of dealing constantly with people’s prejudice and has embraced social criticism in a more general sense.
This album carries some of the sonic punk imprint of Against Me! but contains far more variety. She claims that she wanted this album to sound more like a mix tape: celebrating its variety of musical textures and claiming that it being a new band gave her the freedom to veer away from the characteristic pop-punk sound of Against Me!
From the post-punk hardcore of the lead song (“China Beach”) to bluesy rock (“Born in Black”) to the anthem like story of “I hate Chicago,” each song is a unique piece of art. It has her clever wit and skillful turns of phrase in each song making repeated careful listens. And, although Against Me! isn’t done, this album will help establish her as a rocker with range beyond the successful formula that that band tends to follow.
Check out the streamed full length from NPR’s First Listen and get the album when it drops on November 9th.