Against Me!

Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the best new album of 2014

A lot has changed for Against Me! in the three and a half years since their last album, White Crosses, came out. The band changed drummers twice, and bassist Andrew Seward left the band after being a member for more than a decade. The most notable change was a personal one, as singer Laura Jane Grace, formerly known as Tom Gabel,  publicly came out as transgendered and announced her plans to become a woman. Grace wrote and composed all ten tracks on the excellent Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and they are heavily influenced by her decision to come out. As a whole, they are the most personal and affecting songs she has ever written, making the album perhaps the strongest Against Me! release to date.

The band’s albums have always been angry and politically charged, but that trick had been growing old by the time White Crosses came out. What makes Transgender Dysphoria Blues so strong is that by making these songs about personal struggles, Grace injects them with a fiery sense of immediacy and resonance that had been starting to wear off. After the bassist and drummer departed, Grace contemplated ending the band. She decided not to, saying, “If I didn’t feel like I had something that I really needed to say with the album we’ve been working on for the past year then I’d humbly hang the hat and move on.” This album feels like Grace has something important to say, and is better off for it.

Clocking in at a tight 29 minutes, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is an enrapturing listen that never overstays its welcome. While it is definitely not lo-fi, the ultra sleek production of the last album has been reduced, which helps make the music easier to connect to. That doesn’t mean Grace hasn’t lost her knack for crafting fiery anthems with catchy hooks, as songs like “True Trans Soul Rebel” and “Fuckmylife666” have some of the most memorable choruses she’s ever written. While the band’s Springsteen influence is still intact, the forays into darker themes alongside these powerful tunes recall The Replacements at times. Grace’s voice is still as gruff as ever, and it helps give a certain edge and vitriol to her songs.

Grace’s decision to out herself was a momentous occasion, both for her personally and for punk rock in general. She addresses this head-on from the start, opening the album on the title track with the lines “Your tells are too obvious, shoulders too broad for a girl,” before going into the many challenges she faces on a daily basis.  From there, she delves into other personal issues such as the relationship with her wife, the loss of friends and the creeping threat of death. Everything comes together on the incredible closer, “Black Me Out," as Laura gives a voice to anyone who’s ever been taken advantage of or made to feel as if they were less than worthwhile.

Grace’s songwriting is sharper on an album where the music is a little messier than it’s been on the last few Against Me! albums. By airing out her struggles, she is able to give a voice to the countless that relate to what she goes through. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is an album that should touch a lot of people’s lives, and is easily the first great record of 2014.

Artist: Against Me!
Album: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Label: Total Treble Music
Songs to download: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues," “True Trans Soul Rebel" and “Black Me Out”

Photo Credit: Ploy Buraparate | Daily Texan Staff

From memorable hit singles to important moments in music, 2012 has given us a lot to be thankful for. Here are the top eight music-related things we should be thankful for this Thursday:

8. Snoop Dogg’s “Reincarnation”:

Most fans thought Snoop Dogg renaming himself Snoop Lion was some elaborate joke or publicity stunt when he announced the change back in July. Although the latter is highly plausible, Snoop stated the name change was the result of being rechristened “Snoop Lion” by a Rastafarian priest in Jamaica. Although fans will always remember Calvin Broadus Jr. as Snoop Dogg, Snoop’s reincarnation is an indicator that the hip-hop icon will continue to bring good vibes for years to come.

7. Frank Ocean’s “Courage”:

In July, hip-hop singer and rapper Frank Ocean revealed on his Tumblr that he had a love affair with a man four years ago. The publicity of Ocean’s coming out letter was the result of his place in a genre known for being hypermasculine and homophobic. But once Ocean came out, a handful of rappers (50 Cent, Jay-Z, T.I.) voiced their support for him and brought a conversation about sexuality to the forefront of hip-hop. The genre remains very heteronormative, but Ocean’s courage has
improved that.

6. The Beastie Boys:

Earlier this year, Beastie Boys co-founder Adam “MCA” Yauch died of cancer. With Yauch’s untimely death came praise and remembrance for his long-lasting influence. From Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to rapper Eminem, multiple artists voiced their thankfulness for Yauch’s musical impact. The Beastie Boys’ future is still uncertain: fellow Beastie Boy Michael “Mike D” Diamond stated in an interview with Rolling Stone in May that the group may disband.

5.Thomas Gabel, of Against Me!:

Having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood, Against Me! frontman (now front-woman) Thomas Gabel, came out as transgender in May. The move was a courageous one for Gabel, now known as Laura Jane Grace. Against Me! will continue to perform with Grace in the lead, and most recently performed at Fun Fun Fun Fest.

4. The birth of Blue Ivy Carter:

Excitement has been brewing since singer Beyonce Knowles revealed her baby bump at the MTV Music Video Awards last year. Blue Ivy Carter was born in January, resulting in many congratulations for Beyonce and rap mogul Jay-Z. The best part of it all? Jay-Z dedicating a song (“Glory”) to his newborn child.

3. “Call Me Maybe”:

Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit single originally dropped last year but did not premiere in the U.S. until February. Whether listeners liked the song or not, its pop cultural relevance was inescapable. From radio stations and YouTube to “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” — Jepsen was everywhere. Jepsen recognized that no human can ignore relatable lyrical content and catchy and upbeat melodies. People can pretend to dislike “Call Me Maybe” as much as they want, but they can’t deny that it’s catchy.

2.“Gangnam Style”:

A memorable beat and an easy-to-learn dance move propelled Korean pop artist PSY to worldwide popularity earlier this year. His song “Gangnam Style” has been called a “force for world peace” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And it makes sense: no matter what, whenever “Gangnam Style” comes on, people cannot help but gallop around and simultaneously yell, “Hey, sexy lady!” With its formulated commentary on the dangers of flaunting wealth, “Gangnam Style” is much more than just a catchy pop song.

1. Pussy Riot’s Protest in Moscow:

When several members of Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot staged a protest in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, the outcome was catastrophic. Three of the group’s members — Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — were arrested, with Samutsevich eventually being freed, but Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina will be serving two years in prison. Pussy Riot’s bravery incited activism on a global scale, with people banding together not only for the members’ freedom, but for justice for all.

Printed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 as: Music moments stand out in 2012