Transgender Dysphoria Blues review by Against Me!

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  • Released: Jan 21, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 5.9 (35 votes)
Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
1

Sound — 8
While I have been hearing a lot in the media about Tom Gabel's transition to Laura Jane Grace, this is mostly irrelevant to the actual quality of the album and I won't really discuss it at length. In true punk rock fashion, the longest tracks from the album barely break 3 minutes making the entire 10 track album clock in at under 30 minutes. The album is being released under the band's label, Total Treble Music, and was recorded in the band's studio, Total Treble Studio. Jay Weinberg and Andrew Seward left Against Me! before the work on the new album began, which resulted in Laura Jane Grace performing the bass guitar on almost the entire album except for the tracks "Unconditional Love" and "FUCKMYLIFE666" which were recorded by Fat Mike from NOFX. The drums were performed by new drummer, Atom Willard. The open bass spot in the band has now been filled by Inge Johansson (of The Noise Conspiracy), but Inge came in after the recording of the album.

The album opens up with the title track, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," which does an excellent job of setting the stage for the rest of the album. The musicality is just what you expect and want in pop punk, and the lyrics are straight forward and in line with the concept of the album. The drums have an almost punk march thing going on, and the distorted guitars push the song home. The next track, "True Trans Soul Rebel," has one of my favorite bass lines from the album and one of the most interesting hooks from the album as well. "Unconditional Love" is the first track on the album which includes Fat Mike on bass. This track definitely has a unique vibe to it, and the style of the vocals on this track along with the progression carry the song. "Drinking With the Jocks" is definitely a very aggressive track and one that I had heard a lot about before even listening to the album. While I wasn't behind this track lyrically 100%, I was definitely solid from a musical point of view. The next track, "Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ," I absolutely don't get where it is coming from lyrically, but it was awesome musically, and I loved the bass tone on this one. "FUCKMYLIFE666" is up next, and this is the second track to have Fat Mike on bass. The guitar melody that acts a little bit like a secondary hook in the song is fairly engaging and by this point in the album the story has pulled me in. The track "Dead Friend" is about the band's lighting engineer/roadie, Pope, who died - apparently Laura Jane Grace had some unresolved feelings about him, and this song highlights that. Next up is "Two Coffins" and this is the only acoustic track from the album – thematically, I think this may be a continuation of the previous track. "Paralytic States" is another track where the bass tone stood out a lot to me, and oddly enough had a Pixies vibe to it at certain places. The album closes out with the track "Black Me Out," which lyrically draws a line in the sand. I enjoyed the total mix of the album, with the bass and drums given the appropriate levels in the mix - this isn't something that is done right very often in punk music. The album is consistently strong from beginning to end.

Lyrics — 8
Laura Jane Grace doesn't sound dramatically different than she has previously on vocals on most of the album, maybe moving slightly in the direction of a contralto voice. Honestly, this album displays possibly her strongest performance as a vocalist on a studio album. The lyrical subject matter is basically locked into the subject matter of the album's concept throughout and so you can think what you want about the lyrics but vocally and musically the album is exceptional for the genre, in my opinion.

The lyrical content, again, is all based around the concept of being written from the perspective of or about a transgender prostitute. This is a pretty heavy subject, and I'm sure there will be people that it really turns off the band, as well as others who will be fascinated with the socially controversial nature of the lyrics. Laura has had a lot of time to build up a lot of feelings about her struggle with gender dysphoria and she's translated those into some strong songs. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some lyrics from the title track, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," "Your tells are so obvious/ Shoulders too broad for a girl/ Keeps you reminded/ Helps you to remember where/ You come from/ You want them to notice/ The ragged ends of your summer dress/ You want them to see you/ Like they see any other girl/ They just see a faggot/ They hold their breath not to catch the sick/ Rough surf on the coast/ Wish I could have spent the/ Whole day alone with you." While the album's themes are theoretically a fictional concept, the curtain is definitely pulled back on some tracks, such as the track "Dead Friend" which names the band's lighting engineer/roadie that passed away: "We buried your body into the heart of a hole in the ground/ John Paul Allison, the orphan boy Pope/ She waits for you to haunt her/ she sleeps with your ghost at night in bed/ when you died you were only twenty-six/ the most real person that I've ever met/ your cold dead hands, you cold dead lips/ your cold dead heart, your cold dead kiss."

Overall Impression — 8
I was pleasantly surprised by the album, finding it to be the best pop-punk album I've heard in years, in my opinion. Also, while this album is musically "pop" punk, the lyrics and ideas are definitely full on punk, which I definitely respect. My favorite songs from the album would probably be the title track, then "Dead Friend," and then "True Trans Soul Rebel." I respect what Against Me! is doing with this album, and it is well executed. More power to Laura Jane Grace and the rest of the band.

66 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Iommianity
    It's pretty sad that some pedantic *****s worry more about being objectively correct than being a decent human being and treating people with dignity. I was wondering what the use was in this album focusing so heavily on this concept, and I think I understand it better now. I don't know how I would deal with the malignant stupidity these kinds of people must deal with on a daily basis.
    LostLegion
    So yeah....the album's pretty good
    Nero Galon
    LMAO I know right. Is it possible people can talk about the album in a comments section for the ALBUM review instead of something only half relevant?
    ScottStewart1
    This may sound weird, but I wish it was sonically darker to match the lyrics (which I think are brilliant btw). Very interesting album, just wish the instrumental aspect of it was as interesting. Will definitely give it a few more listens to let it sink in more.
    ramrodTM
    I'm not a big fan of this review. For the most part, I disagree because of preference so there's nothing we can do about that. But some of the statements are objectively wrong ("Two Coffins" is about Laura's daughter). I also don't see how the lyrics of "Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ" are confusing. It's pretty straight forward as to what it means. I also think that "Drinking with the Jocks" has some pretty ****ed up lyrics. I can't imagine sitting there lying through my teeth about wanting to **** these girls when the whole time I wanted to be the girls getting ****ed. Heavy stuff man. But like I said, it's down to opinion and this reviewer is entitled to his own. Personally, I think "Paralytic States" is the star of this album. Those lyrics are unbelievable. Laura does an amazing job on this album of showing us the torment she went through her entire life and through her transition. Overall I agree with this reviewer's score but not necessarily with some of his comments. Fun read though.
    Genrecore
    People should be allowed to PRETEND all they want as long they don't harm anyone. This reminds me of that Southpark episode... Just because it doesn't appeal to you, doesn't mean someone else wont. Just like I'm tolerable of rap music and techno. It's just not my thing, I don't feel inclined to force myself to like it nor I make a crusade for it.
    WantsLesPaul
    Wow, I did not expect that minor shitstorm back there. I haven't listened to the whole album yet, but I personally really prefer this live version of Two Coffins over the album one.
    Armagedn
    Pretty good album. Not as good as "As the Eternal Cowboy" (my favorite), but definitely an enjoyable album.
    zeddlikezebra
    oh ya there was an album review attached to these inflated male chest pounding comments. ridiculous. i hate to put my 2 cents into this debate but i know some people who are going through exactly what Laura is going through and while biologically no you cannot change your sex you can reassign your gender. considering what makes up your gender is physical flesh but what makes up your sex is chromosomal. which is part of the reassignment. its a strange blurry line but there is no sense on being ignorant, arrogant or rude about it. PS the album is awesome.
    theogonia777
    I don't know. I feel like the music is too light and upbeat for "a pretty heavy subject" with "socially controversial [...] lyrics" (to quote the review). To me, the music just doesn't exactly work well with conveying the difficulties of being a prostitute (transgender or not). I'm just not a fan of serious topics being conveyed with fun music. Also: "Laura Jane Grace doesn't sound dramatically different than she has previously on vocals on most of the album, maybe moving slightly in the direction of a contralto voice." Were you like... expecting that her voice would be radically different or something?
    Armagedn
    A lot of people going through gender reassignment get surgery on their voice to sound more like a woman or whatever. They probably wouldn't as a singer, but it's not unheard of.
    theogonia777
    Yeah, not really that many. Vocal surgery is pretty risky and so not particularly common, and vocal therapy really only does so much.
    vppark2
    Yeah, I had the same exact feeling. Especially with a song like Dead Friend, it still had an upbeat sound. Still solid album, though.
    grizzzzly_adams
    I enjoyed the album. There are some songs that made it on to my phone (that's a big deal to me). I think it was genuine and a brave new start for the band. Was worried the loss of the bass player would hit hard, but I think they are solid. What Laura has done is the most punk rock thing ever. Stay true.
    Thwackyemole
    So many social justice warriors here. Tantamount is correct even though the tumblr crowd is downvoting his comments. Gender is biological. When a trans thing wants to be something different, they create a social construct, but it doesn't match their biology. You can't undo years of development by chopping off something/taking pills. Social sciences do not trumpt actual biology. Sorry freakos. The music isn't even passable. I was hoping it would be good because I couldn't refrain from clicking the link and joining in the shitstorm I knew to be brewing. I mean come on man, the band name is "Against ME"... already playing the victim. This new generation is appaling in its scruples. You kids will accept anything with a "cause" they mention on tv.
    Iommianity
    At the end of the day, it's silly to ignore biology, or pretend it doesn't exist. These people are simply asking to be treated with dignity, which is beyond easy to do. What you have to say has no bearing, or should have no bearing, on someone living a happy, fulfilling life. At the end of the day, they're not hurting anyone, and being 'objectively right' is cold comfort for being a cold hearted prick. If someone feels 'right', if someone feels happy and fulfilled living their life a certain way, why do you presume to be in any position to shit on their parade and NOT be looked at like an ***** with free time who could use a lesson in empathy? Clearly, the biological circumstances in their lives are simply that, circumstances, which don't have anything to do with how they feel, or how I could choose (most important thing here, it's a choice I make) to treat them as a fellow human being. I don't care about social justice, I don't care about trends, and really, I don't even care that, in your little corner under the bridge, you think you're actually telling the hard truth. It's about treating people with the dignity they ask for, and if you can't get that, that's a deficiency on your part, not the part of others.
    iwannabesedated
    Gender is not in any way biological. Sex is biological. Gender and its associated is an entirely manmade idea. Not even mentioning the population of people that are intersex, and are biologically neither male nor female.
    Tantamount
    If you have a penis, no amount of hormone pills prescribed by quack doctors, mutilating surgeries, or cross-dressing will EVER turn you into a female/woman/"she".
    iommi600
    The amount of transphobic shit in the comments here is saddening. Anyway, gave this album a shot yesterday, not really my thing.
    Van Guff
    You know that making the change isn't like waking up and deciding to have coco pops instead of Corn Flakes right? It's a choice that takes years of contemplating, and a decision that will inevitably make the standard of life for the person a million times better. It's unfortunate that ignorant morons like you continue to take that away from them. The people who go through this change are a hell of a lot stronger than you will EVER be.
    blackparade11
    You are ignorant.
    Tantamount
    I guess you people missed the lesson in pre-school about, "boys have a penis, girls have a vagina".
    LightxGrenade
    What ****ing pre-school did you go to that they were discussing private parts to kids? I must've been absent the day they explained penises and vaginas at my pre-school...
    Tantamount
    It was a metaphor, to point out that you lunatics have less comprehension of gender than a child. You can't chose your own gender. People pretending to be the opposite gender that they are genetically and physically, are guilty of GRAND FRAUD.
    theogonia777
    You clearly don't have any comprehension of the difference between gender and biological sex.
    theogonia777
    And actually, that's not even what a "metaphor" is, so you don't know that either.
    Tantamount
    Ok sorry, an ANALOGY. But the point stands, you can't pick your own gender, and you can't change it either. All you can do is PRETEND and hope that a bunch of politically correct lunatics go along with your shameless espousing of unmitigated lies as you abominate nature.
    ramrodTM
    You're right Tantamount, we can't choose our gender. Laura was born with a female gender and a male sex. That's why it's called dysphoria. Learn to psychology bro
    theogonia777
    It's not an analogy either. Didn't you learn what metaphors, analogies, etc were back in preschool?
    RC52190
    Just noticed how long ago this was. Thank you, Tantamount, for quitting while you weren't too dismally (Oops, sorry, high school word there) far behind.
    RC52190
    You are so beyond ignorant, it's almost not worth even arguing with you... Almost. You obviously don't have a clue about gender dysphoria and how the human brain actually works. Someone may be born biologically as a certain sex, but their brain may tell them that they are the opposite sex and they grow up feeling trapped in the wrong body for their entire lives until they get corrective surgery. I would ask if you were taught that in high school, but it's pretty apparent that you never made it there in the first place. Just because it's not a problem you have to deal with doesn't mean you can't empathize with people and be understanding.
    DrTranny
    When I was in school it was fifth grade. Some states are now at least pushing for it to be as low as kindergarten. Not sure if that is in place in any yet. So pre-school wasn't even much of an exaggeration. If pre-school were required I'm sure they'd be pushing for it to be taught then. Dipshit.
    youhaveballs
    Gay. Most of this bullshit can be attributed to endocrine disruptors in artificial products, namely plastics, that usually mimic estrogen and in a pregnant woman will cause a fetus that would have been a male to be more female in a variety of ways.
    Cavalcade
    You registered just to shit-talk a singer for coming out as transgendered. I bet you don't even have a guitar.
    mattjamesrenn
    I don't know a huge amount about hormones but I do know that many chemicals mimic hormones (our own chems) and are a snug fit for the receptors, some have a glorious effect :. Yes you are right about the plastics thing, but it isn't just plastics tis a large array of shyte that is put into our foods as well. People didn't like how you worded it as it comes across as arrogant and immature. Also It's an odd thing to add on a review comment even know it may be relevent in some respect it just seemed to come from nowhere dude .
    youhaveballs
    It is odd, but that's because I only came to this review because I noticed something about transgenderism when I landed on the main page and thought I would share the information.
    youhaveballs
    Don't vote down my comment just because you don't like the truth. You really think that we just naturally are sometimes born males or females who feel like they are the opposite? It's either an issue caused during development by outside forces like those I referred to, or you're psychotic. Don't anonymously vote down my comment; at least attempt to refute it, delusional pussy.
    youhaveballs
    Pussies now.
    youhaveballs
    And they keep coming. I guess none of you have the knowledge or balls to respond with words. Or maybe you all had them cut off already.
    zalant
    I'm just not sure that I see the point of your post. To me, it's not really important why someone feels a particular way. It's their own internal composition, and it's up to them to do whatever it is with their own body that makes them feel more comfortable with themselves. No one else but that person can make that decision, nor should anyone else judge them for it. Having an opinion is a basic human right, and I certainly don't begrudge you for speaking out here, but I would offer the ages-old advice to keep mum if your words aren't kind. There's already heaps too much negativity in the world. Why add to it? Peace.
    Tantamount
    You can't chose your own gender or race. You can live whatever LIFESTYLE you goddamned well please, but simply being a crossdressing man, taking hormone pills or having surgeries to alter your body, does not make you into a woman, it makes you into a FRAUD.
    LordThon
    ...Clearly, you've never witnessed a gay person (gender non-specific) say - in the most sarcastic tone a human being can convey - "I TOTALLY chose this. Yeah. Best 'decision' of my life". It isn't always a choice, man. Some people are just...born different. You can't always choose (that's how it's spelt, for the record) the ones you love, either, right? Sometimes, things just don't work out the same for everyone. Nothing wrong with it. Just...the wonders of genetics.
    youhaveballs
    The point of it was to impart to anyone who may read these comments the likely cause of this disorder in most people. I then got annoyed at the ignorant little bitches that vote down comments that they don't like the sound of, whether or not it may be valid. If anyone would like more information on this but doesn't have the drive to do their own research search "endocrine niehs nih" and you will find a page from the national institute of health that has many links to more information about endocrine disruptors. By the way, negativity is nowhere close to our biggest problem as a species.
    theogonia777
    Or maybe nobody really thinks it's worth the effort to "refute" your "points" that you probably just pulled out of you ass.
    youhaveballs
    Good job making yourself look like an idiot. You obviously don't follow things.
    ytrappin
    This album has 2 GREAT songs and the rest are below average compared to rest of this bands catalog. I don't know about you but to me the sound has drastically changed. I wish they would just break up or choose a new name because Laura can't(maybe won't) sing how Tom used to and all the anger from this band has completely died off. I've been a follower of this band since the early 2000's and enjoyed most of everything they have done albeit this is probably their 2nd worst album. i don't think this band will make it their next album.