Showing posts with label against me!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label against me!. Show all posts

Thursday, September 22, 2016

video review: 'shape shift with me' by against me!

Well, this was way better than I was expecting - and frankly, considering how well some of the hooks came together (and served as a pretty kickass workout mix this evening), I expect to be replaying this a lot in the near future.

In the mean time, things are going to get much darker with the new Preoccupations and In The Woods... - stay tuned!

album review: 'shape shift with me' by against me!

I'm not sure what to expect out of Against Me! anymore.

Granted, they've taken a career trajectory that isn't that unfamiliar for long-running punk acts. They start off with a few critically acclaimed, insightful albums with great hooks to boot, get signed to a major label and subsequently lose a fair amount of that insight and grit to cater to a larger audience, and soon after the well runs dry they return to the independent scene, perhaps never to regain that old spark but maybe regain some critical respect or cult following.

And from what I can tell, that's exactly what has happened with Against Me!, but with a twist: not only did frontwoman Laura Jane Grace come out as transgender and transitioned, it became the focal point of her 2014 record Transgender Dysphoria Blues. And not only did it inject the band with fresh subject matter, it also further accentuated a ragged edge that had been long lacking in their material. Now that album was far from perfect - it still felt a little underwritten and I got the impression that the transgender themes could have been expanded a bit more as subject matter that is so rarely explored, even in punk - but, for lack of a better word and forgive the pun, it felt a bit transitional.

But now it's two years later, and Against Me! have a new record ready to go, with reportedly more of a romantic focus to the tracks - which I thought was a solid idea for a shift, given that this was the area I thought could do with more exploration on Transgender Dysphoria Blues, especially if they were ditching the more aimless protest songs that I felt bogged down that record. So okay, I'm onboard, did Shape Shift With Me stick the landing?

Friday, January 31, 2014

video review: 'transgender dysphoria blues' by against me!

That came together fairly quickly. Not sure I'm thrilled with the video, but eh, I honestly didn't have a lot to say. Punk albums are good that way - they get to the point.

Next up... hmm, well, there's no releases I care about until February 4, so it's time to tackle some old business. Stay tuned!

album review: 'transgender dysphoria blues' by against me!

It's a fairly well-know fact in punk music that if you stick around in the scene long enough, you will get sick of punk music. As much as I love punk, it's a genre that has a certain instrumental simplicity in its purest form, which means many acts will stop playing punk fairly early in their careers and move in different instrumental directions. Some go towards mainstream pop, some go towards folk, a fair chunk gravitate towards metal or hardcore, and of course you have the post-punk scene. And as the genre changes, the songwriting topics tend to change as well, and thus you'll end up getting all manner of cries of 'sellout' the second the band opts for a different sound.

And really, I don't think that's entirely fair - the set of punk 'ideals' and songwriting topic have always been nebulous and hard to define, and there have been punk acts like Green Day who have held onto decidedly punk sensibilities lyrically while exploring arena rock and other genres. I'd only be inclined to brand an act a 'sellout' if the songwriting took a notable dip in quality, and say what you will about Green Day, but their shallow and hyperbolic lyrics have been a consistent factor throughout their entire career (you know it's true).

But then we have Against Me!, a punk act that sprung up in the early 2000s with serious songwriting chops, a knack for great hooks, and a lot of instrumental talent with real punk flair... and yet after those first two albums, it'd be hard to argue that they didn't 'sell out'. From Searching For A Former Clarity onward you could see the changes across the board, with the grime and instrumental texture slowly being scraped away, the ideals and wry self-awareness that characterized their early work falling away, and the songwriting only coming across as more conventional and painfully mundane (still good on a technical level, mind you, but not nearly as interesting). The band still had a knack for great hooks and catchy material, but by the time White Crosses was released in 2010, I'd have a hard time calling the band a 'punk' act rather than your standard arena rock crowd-pleaser, which lyrics that were shallower than ever and a seeming complete lack of self-awareness. And look, I like earnestness, but Against Me!'s early appeal for me was in the balance between razor-sharp insight and self-aware populism. And by White Crosses, that was almost entirely gone, leaving behind a pretty solid but not particularly interesting 'arena punk' band.

But I have to admit, I was curious about their newest release Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The title was inspired by lead singer Laura Jane Grace coming out as a trans woman in 2012 and her struggles with gender dysphoria that she's endured her whole life (and in retrospect, come up a surprising amount on early Against Me! albums). In terms of an album topic, you just don't see many albums discussing trans issues, and coupled with the fact Against Me! were now on their own label and were returning to their rougher sound, I was really interested in what this record would put forward. So how did go?