By Scott T. Sterling
“Your tells are so obvious/ Shoulders too broad for a girl/ Keeps you reminded/ Helps you to remember where /You come from” – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
From the very first line, Against Me!’s sixth full-length album dives right into the heart of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace‘s life experiences around her decision that she would be living as a transgendered woman after spending most of her 30-some years as a man, born Tom Gabel.
Grace channels all of the rage, fear, doubt and bravery that inevitably comes with such a choice into the album’s 10 tracks, which roar by in less than 29 minutes with the precision and energy of the Ramones combined with taut songwriting chops reminiscent of classic Cheap Trick.
While the album’s emotional core powers Transgender Dysphoria Blues, what shouldn’t be lost in the conversation is that through Grace’s many personal discoveries, Against Me! has produced arguably the best album of their career that is already well in the running for one of the best rock full-lengths of 2014.
“The thing is that having been a band for 17 years is that unfortunately, most of the time people aren’t actually paying attention to the music, and they’re picking out some other inconsequential thing to focus on to talk about in an interview or whatever,” Grace says with a sigh during a recent interview with Radio.com. “And for years, our band was always about what label we were on, and ‘oh, you’re sellouts ’cause you sold to a major label’ or ‘you’re sellouts ’cause you’re on Fat Wreck Chords’ or whatever, and that was always the focus. That completely overshadowed the music for years.
“So now if the focus has shifted to something else, it’s just inconsequential,” she added. “The people who are gonna listen to the music and know what it’s about are those people, and there are always going to be those people. But otherwise, people are gonna focus on things that don’t really matter.”
Still, it’s hard not to be inspired by Grace’s bravery by being so forthright in regards to her transgender status, which has made her something of a new folk hero to many in the LGBT community and beyond.