What a year it has been for American punk. Spectacular albums from Audacity and Descendents, the reunion of The Misfits and now this. I have to admit my total ignorance of Against Me!. For over a decade, friends who know my musical taste have been telling me to check them out and I should have listened.
From the off this is punky, tuneful, intelligent and emotional. Singer and guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender prior to 2014's Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and her memoir of her experiences with gender dysphoria, Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, is out next month. There seems to have been little impact on Against Me!'s music though she does note that the lyrics are more personal than political this time around and that the songs were written more collaboratively than previous albums.
‘Crash’ is aptly titled as it is close in sound and arrangement to The Primitives' '80s hit of the same name. It is unabashedly pop with shades of The Offspring and Placebo. Grace sings with the stylistic tics and rhythms of Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. ‘Haunting, Haunted, Haunts’ has the brash, hiberno-punk rhythms of Jake Bugg and it's hard to hear the vocals without thinking of The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys.
'Suicide Bomber' starts out with a sleazy rock riff aping AC/DC but the main body of the song sounds like a Breeders tune in punk clothing. 'Rebecca' is straight up pop punk and an ode to casual sex. It would be all over the radio if not for the multiple references to fucking. It's a thrilling and frank celebration of the horn.
The noisy experimentalism of 'Norse Truth' was co-written with Cody Votolato of Blood Brothers and is noticeably different from the rest of the album. From the opening line of “Tits out for the boys/Hard cocks, hard cunts, line ‘em up”, the verses are half spoken, shouted in a stream of consciousness rant reminiscent of Henry Rollins and Ian Curtis. The precision attack of the rage and the lolloping backbeat come across like a personally revelatory Future Of The Left and is the standout track on the album.
Hearing Against Me! for the first time they sound like Bad Religion jamming with Jimmy Eat World. With the quality of the songwriting and strength of the delivery, they are a class act. Having binged repeatedly on Shape Shift With Me, I'm off to procure Against Me!'s back catalogue without delay. And to belatedly thank my friends for their recommendations.