This past weekend, Against Me! played the Chameleon Club in Lancaster in a preliminary celebration of the new Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It’s the band’s sixth LP, but as NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson points out in his First Listen review of the album, it can’t help but feel like a debut, since it’s Against Me!’s first full-length since singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) came out as transgender.
As Thompson puts it, while “she still barks her lyrics with fiercely assertive intelligence — with a voice as yet largely unchanged from the one in the band’s earlier work…Against Me!’s subject matter can’t help but be turned on its head”:
At times joltingly profane, Transgender Dysphoria Blues doesn’t let up for 29 brisk minutes, but real tenderness and vulnerability surfaces in the melee. In “Unconditional Love,” Grace repeats the self-lacerating line, “Even if your love was unconditional / it still wouldn’t be enough to save me” — a terrifying and revealing notion, even as Grace remains by all accounts happily married to her wife.
Against Me!’s music only addressed gender issues in passing before Transgender Dysphoria Blues, so the album certainly qualifies as a left turn. But the end result is just as catchy and anthemic as the terrific speedball punk records that precede it. Gabel always told the truth as he saw it, so it makes sense that Laura Jane Grace would do the same, with the added benefit of comfort and courage in her own skin.
Listen to Transgender Dysphoria Blues in its entirety here via NPR Music. Below, watch some fan footage of the show at the Chameleon (which also included sets from The Shondes and The Sidekicks).
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