Against Me!, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
Were a casual fan to give a cursory listen to “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the first record from Gainesville, Fla., punks Against Me! since 2010, they might not notice much had changed. The10 songs here still churn with an agitated, tuneful punk energy, with the occasional blues-rock framework as on the title track, and acoustic detour, as on the meditative “Two Coffins.” In truth, the band has undergone some significant changes, establishing their own record label, introducing a new rhythm section, and, most significantly, singer and guitarist Tom Gabel’s coming out as a woman. That transformation is at the heart of each song’s lyrics here, with the singer, now known as Laura Jane Grace, detailing the frustration of years of living inside a body that didn’t feel like one’s own. “She spent the last years of her life running from the boy she used to be,” she sings on “Paralytic States.” For all the visceral pain given voice here, in Grace’s traditionally harrowed, gritty singing, there’s still a sense of hopefulness that comes through that’s hard not to find solace in. Or, like the aforementioned casual fan, you could simply appreciate these songs for their anthemic power, something that transcends gender. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”Luke O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.