“TRANSGENDER DYSPHORIA BLUES”
Total Treble Records
Everything and nothing has changed on the new Against Me! album, the Florida group’s sixth. The band still traffics in full-throttle and full-throated punk rock, deploying buzz-saw guitars and shout-along choruses for overt sociopolitical purposes. But on “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the quartet has a new rhythm section and, in some ways, a new leader: the former Tom Gabel is now Laura Jane Grace, and most songs address her transformation in explicit, often profane language.
The vocals are still a gravelly bark, especially on the terrific title track, which opens the album with “Your tells are so obvious/ Shoulders too broad for a girl/ Keeps you reminded/ Helps you to remember where you come from.”
Grace and fellow guitarist James Bowman still share anthemic riffs inspired by the Clash, Billy Bragg, and NOFX (whose bassist sits in on a few tracks), but there’s a bit more of the Thermals and Gaslight Anthem here. The guitars have more gloss than grit, while the lyrics are unvarnished (and often unprintable). This fascinating, brief album flags a bit in its second half, but it’s provocative throughout.
— Steve Klinge, The Philadelphia Inquirer