Posts Tagged ‘Against Me’

If their astoundingly good breakthrough album New Wave was called a sell out, then than was nothing compared to its follow-up, 2011’s White Crosses album. Singer Laura Jane Grace describes the backlash brilliantly in the autobiography Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.

It was the band’s last album before their seminal, momentous, once-in-a-generation masterpiece Transgender Dysphoria Blues. In the band’s catalogue it has a really distinctive style. I mean, no two Against Me! albums sound much alike anyway, but even taking that into account, this is even more different yet again. Its unarguably their most commercial release to date. Its unarguably their cleanest album to date. It is their most radio friendly effort to date. Its kind of a grower in places. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that it isn’t fantastic.

One of the best songs I think I’ve ever heard by any artist comes from this record (‘Because Of The Shame’ …a really touching and emotional songs in the band’s already weighty cannon, describing coming back to town for the funeral of someone you slept with, and all the difficult emotions seeing them and their family). As well as being interesting lyrically however; it is outrageously catchy and memorable musically. It has that same mega-anthemic feel as someone like The Foo Fighter’s biggest songs but with so much more oomph and edge.

Not that the album is a one trick pony either. Single ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ is a real ballsy ode to the bands oh-so-punk past, and how they aren’t that band anymore much to the chagrin of the punker-than-thou original fans. Lines like ‘’I was a teenage Anarchist but the politics were too convenient’’ and ‘’the revolution was a lie’’ are so refreshing to hear in music’s don’t-you-dare-sell-out culture.  Once again, I’m talking a bit too much about the lyrics, but it is one real bad ass rock song that you can hum all day long and gets stuck in your head for days. The fun surf-rock tone of the guitar solo and the breathy opening non-lyrical ‘ah ha ha ah ah, ha haha’ noises are real highlights.

Its not all anthemic rockers either, there’s the harmonica and acoustic guitar woozy vibes of ‘Bob Dylan Dream’ (a song about exactly what you think its about) that to me is as infinitely sing-able as something like Country Roads or Dirty Old Town are to the drunken masses. ‘Ache With Me’ is similarly quiet but more contemplative and sad sounding.

The rhythmic ‘Bamboo Bones’ is so bouncy and fun, with excellent drumming and a bigger chorus than any of the genre’s biggest bands. When the singer lets out the wounded bellow of ‘’What God doesn’t give to you, you’ve got to go and get for yourself’’ you can hear so many different shades of emotion I want to give it some kind of award. How the hell this song isn’t a global mega hit like Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’ I’ll never know.

Its pointless sitting here pointing out highlights, because every song is great. Rapid Decompression and One By One and Bitter Divisions are all melodic but up tempos rockers that would all be the best song on a lesser band’s album. Suffocation, Spanish Moss and Lehigh Acres are all catchy as hell with interesting lyrics. The only song I didn’t love right away was the title track, but that’s grown on me a lot over time too.

Overall; a superb album, as chocked full of memorable moments as an average band’s greatest hits collection. Its their least punk and their most commercial release. But as long as the songs are this catchy, then who the hell cares? (Well, the punker than thou crowd cared, as we discussed above, but for everyone else, just lay back and let the good tunes wash over you).

2007’s New Wave is the fourth full-length studio album by Florida Punk band Against Me! It was produced by Butch Vig (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, AFI), and saw the band get both a huge boost in audience and a huge backlash from their early fans. The story of it is really interesting, and I’d recommend reading their singer Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography, ‘’Tranny.’’

I haven’t been with the band since the beginning, in fact, I read the aforementioned autobiography first based upon reputation alone and worked backwards, so I am completely immune to all this backlash, and to my ears, this album is not only a stone cold, unarguable classic but also, in the short time I have had with it, one of my absolute favourite albums I have heard by any band, no caveats. That is huge praise from me, becuase I usually have a thousand caveats to every recomendation and like to catagorise things to death.

The lyrics are absolutely phenomenal. So clever, biting, insightful, and interesting …not to mention catchy) and are such a good mixture of personal, political and punk. There are pre-coming out lyrics about the conflicted feelings about identity, there are Bush era political lyrics about America’s place in the world and there are punk perspective lyrics about the music industry. Regardless of what they’re about, the way they’re written, the way they flow and are delivered is just fantastic.

Then there’s the songs; from the ramshackle punk road trip feel of ‘’Americans Abroad’’ to the almost Franz Ferdinand vibes of the insanely catchy ‘’Up The Cuts’’ to the trippy and loose ‘’The Ocean’’ there is a real diverse range of style explored. The quality of the songs is outstanding, each setting out to do something different and each absolutely nailing it.

I don’t know if it is the passion, the production or the way they were penned, but almost every song on this is an absolute 10/10.  The album feels more like a greatest hits compilation than a single album. ‘’White People For Peace’’ is so explosive, ‘’Piss And Vinegar’’ is so fun and danceable, and the famous ‘’Thrash Unreal’’ is so emotional (especially in hindsight after its unintentional sister song ‘’Because Of The Shame’’ was released).

I am no writer, so I have a very limited way of recommending this album that really doesn’t do it justice. Masterpiece, Classic, Genius, these words all seem too generic and inaccurate to describe how good this record is and how highly I’d recommend it to you, (”but I just can’t help but think that there’s comparison.”) I wouldn’t even do a ”for fans of…’ becuase I just purely recomend it to everyone. No caveats.


Transgender_Dysphoria_Blues_cover_artI recently read (or listened to, as it was on Audible rather than a physical book) Against Me!’s singer’s autobiography. I hadn’t been a fan previously, didn’t really know the band. I got curious about it as their former drummer Jay Weinberg (who actually turns out wasn’t that big a part of the story) became the new drummer in Slipknot.

That book had everything; class war, betrayal, bereavement, record industry inside information, conflict, relationship drama and a really intelligent and well spoken author delivering an insightful and interesting story of self-discovery and identity. Couldn’t have asked for a better rock biography.

That obviously lead me to try out some of the band’s music, like the raw and political debut album, and the angry anti-music business conceptual third album, the commercial and controversial White Crosses. Then of course; I heard this album.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect album. Its all subjective, every lyric, every note, every drum beat, the production, the running order, the ratio of familiarity to innovation. Its all incredibly subjective and you can nitpick anything. That being said…

This album has such a perfect length, perfect lack of filler, perfect production job that’s big but not over polished, perfect running order and such excellent lyrics. Now I know its all highly political and if you are strongly anti-Trans you are never going to like the album anyway, but let’s just pretend such people won’t be reading some Irish nerd’s music blog and move on.

I may be a bleeding heart liberal; but that isn’t what makes the album good. You could be talking about these issues and write bad songs. You could mishandle the tone and have hamfisted lyrics. You could have a terrible production job that spoils good music. There’s nothing like that here.

The lyrics are so brilliantly honest, biting and insightful. Laura’s lyrics are really top-drawer stuff; up there with the best lyricists out there, like Dave Wyndrof and Neil Fallon. Coupled with vocal delivery that ranges from vulnerable to snarling to explosive, they really take on a life of their own and paint such an evocative picture. I don’t know if it is due to having had already read the book, but you can just picture everything in your mind’s eye.

‘Black Me Out’ for example, when she snarls ‘I just want to chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers, as if you were a kingmaker. Black me out.’ and ‘As if you were my pimp, as if I was your fucking whore’ the sheer raw emotion in the vocals are just breathtaking and you feel like you are right there in the room with them. During ‘Two Coffins’ the gentle tone of the vocal can almost make me cry. Furthermore in ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ there is a breakdown dynamic to the music where she wails ‘you should have been a mother, you should have been a wife’ which sounds so wounded it is almost touching.

Brilliant lyrics, brilliant vocals. On top of that, as above, it sounds fantastic. It has the perfect mix of rawness and polish, you can really hear the power of the guitar differently depending on how hard the strings are hit. There’s a drum fill in the jaunty shuffling title track and you can hear the toms and cymbals so clearly you can literally picture the exact direction the cymbal is vibrating in.

The musical direction is nice and varied. With folsky twang one minute, indie buzz the next, alternative rock leads after that and punk power following that. ‘Unconditional Love’ even sounds like Warning-era Green Day. There’s something for everyone here. Its the kind of album that literally every track is a must hear song. There isn’t one you could cut, not one you could skip, nothing that needs extending or shortening. It seems pretty much the perfect length.

Overall; this is pretty much as good as a rock album can get. There’s great music, a great sound, there’s honest and depth, and best of all there’s no wasted time or unnecessary fat. If you haven’t heard it, check it out.