Punk rock gets transgendered

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues” is powerfully thought out and while it is deep in meaning and emotion, it is perfectly executed in a way that lends itself to a classic albeit a slightly older and mature punk feel. 

It is the newest studio album by long established rock band, Against Me!. The title and the subject matter for the album itself stems from the real life experience of now front-woman Laura Jane Grace, who recently underwent treatment to complete her identity change from who she was previously known as, Against Me! front-man Tom Gabel. 

The album is the most recent and most interesting in a series of ever changing and ever evolving catalog of albums which spans almost two decades and consists of some of the most honest music of the genre. 

Against Me! began as a garage punk band in Florida, gaining a national following and respect after the popularity of their tape, “The Reinvention of Axl Rose” which is heralded as a true post-punk classic album. 

“The Reinvention of Axl Rose” has an amazing distorted sound, a signature of the band. For those who were asking for the band to return to this form, “Drinking with the Jocks” as well as “Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” definitely fit the bill.  

The albums following their early work (when they were signed to a more major label), “New Wave” and “White Crosses” have a much more produced feel, appealing to a wider audience who, at the time, were just starting to become accepting of mainstream punk in the early 2000s. 

They went on to create a more commercialized rock feel and were very successful, reaching within the top 35 of the Billboard chart. This album offers a much less commercialized sound, although it is unrecognizable from the loud aggression and noise from their first albums.

Songs from “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” are similar to that point in their career in many ways, especially the songs “Unconditional Love” and “Two Coffins”. 

It is on these tracks as well as another entitled “F---MYLIFE666” that offer a more romantic subject matter, while still remaining tragic and hopeless. 

Grace and the band itself have been through a lot as of late, especially considering the media pressure that came with Grace’s 2012 reveal of her true gender identity. 

Grace then wrote this album during and after undergoing treatments and hormones. It is during this time, as well as during her most painful memories of inner pain and self doubt that she had been struggling with her whole life, that she writes about.

 This is where the subject matter for this album stems from, and this comes across especially in the final four songs which beautifully end the almost concept style album about a person undergoing something that completely uproots them. 

The musicality is very respectable and they are clearly talented musicians that have obviously aged in more ways than one since their first release over a decade ago.

However, when first hearing the album one somehow feels that something is missing, some stylistic rebellion that felt so sweet and fulfilling in the original albums. 

In some ways the album’s production value turns the majority of the songs into more of a poppy and conventional rock song feel.  

Instead, this album relies on its lyrics and messages to create the sense of disestablishment while still empowering their audience to live as honestly to one’s self as possible (and taking a stab at things like obnoxious high school stereotypes and forbidden love). 

Grace now seems to be a happier, freer person who has created something that is a true representation of herself. While it may not be for everyone, it definitely earns its place amongst great conceptual punk records.