Against Me! turned plenty of heads in 2014 with their album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Laura Jane Grace’s public diary of her struggle as a transgender. It was brutally honest and well-received for going into uncharted territory. So what’s next for the hardcore punk band?
The singles showed off a shift to 80’s punk and rock music and it came off as uninteresting and thin. “333” sounded like a lazy attempt at surf rock and there wasn’t much to write home about “Crash” other than a chorus that had some potential for radio. “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts” showed the most promise with a rattling rhythm and actually reaches a level of energy we’ve come expect from the band. Listening to the entirety of Shapeshift with Me, you quickly realize these songs function more as built-in palette cleansers instead of representatives of the album.
We get a heavy riffs from in “Suicide Bomber” and “Dead Rats”, both of which sound like they the amps are in a vat of toxic waste. Grace’s voice can get as harsh as ever. In “Rebecca” she carefully chooses her moments to utilize full-force, saving the drama for lines like “When I just want to grab you by the skull!” The next track, “Norse Truth”, continues to show off her skill, talking/shouting the verses and shouting/singing the choruses. It helps break down the fourth wall between you and her when she says “C’mon! Shapeshift with me! What do you got to lose? Fuck it,” before continuing to sing in such an believable voice.
Most of the songs are love songs, which sounds pretty stale compared to the content of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, but Grace explained in a Rolling Stone interview that she just wants there to exist a love album from the transgender perspective. “Boyfriend” is the most representative of this idea, singing about how frustrating it can be that a partner feels like they’ve lost someone in the previous identity. The songs “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” and “Norse Truth” echo each other about wanting to “Be more real than the rest”. Oh and ideas of “All those places we never went to”? Grace makes it clear, “They’re dead, dead in the past.”
Of course, there’s still sexy lyrics anybody can relate to, like “Suicide Bomber”’s chorus “Explode me like a Suicide Bomber.” Music is shapes a lot of listener’s sense of identities, and Grace has put the transgender identity in music canon that is made great by her full honesty about who she is.
Rating: WP 1/2
Key Tracks: Suicide Bomber, Rebecca, Norse Truth
RIYL: Anti-Flag, Misfits