On one hand, the last thing we want to do is contribute to rock press making a big deal over Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s gender transition, not because it’s insignificant and certainly not out of any kind of unease; Quite the contrary, when she walked into our studio late last month with Atom Willard, all we saw was an amazing woman performing the fucking great kind of powerful art that we exist to share with you. When I rave about this band with friends, endocrinology is not my focus. It just shouldn’t matter at all.
On the other hand, the band’s latest album is called Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and we’d have to have our hypersensitive liberal heads pretty far up our own asses to shy away from confronting the subject as Laura herself has done so directly. Especially considering that said subject has inspired the most intense and impassioned album the band has released since forming in 1997, and arguably the most powerful album released this year.
A key concept of the album, the idea of the “true trans” soul rebel has evolved from an artistic outburst into a more tangible phenomenon personified by Laura as her band makes its rounds around the civilized world. She’s now the centerpiece of a ten episode original series called True Trans, over on AOL Originals, where she explores not only her own journey and its struggles, but the lives of other transgendered individuals as they navigate through challenges, confusion, and triumphs.
What first drew us to the music of Against Me! were the songs that peeled back all of the bullshit that sometimes seems to cover this entire world, and Laura would fucking scream the most righteous proclamations our frustrated ears had ever heard. Antiquiet was built on the sentiment of songs like Piss & Vinegar from 2007’s New Wave:
I’ve heard the hype about your band, I’ve seen your video playing on the TV.
Publicity photos in magazines, no none of it makes me feel anything.
I would be lying to you if I did not say something. That would make me feel like a politician.
A middle of the road opinion that no one finds offensive or challenging.
I’m not interested. The stage is not a pedestal.
I don’t think that you’re bad people, I just think that your aesthetic is horrible.
Please treat me with the same respect and candor. I would appreciate the honesty.
A little less professional, a little more up front and confrontational.
Just say what you’re thinking. Say what you’re really thinking.
That’s everything we stand for, in a nutshell. Now… It’s inevitable to fall in love with art like that, that perfectly nails all of those things you fight in life, that you can never quite master until someone sings you the decryption code. But what we find especially exceptional about Transgender Dysphoria Blues is that its force goes well beyond a niche appreciation. To feel Laura’s angst, to hear in her voice how much of a human existence can be an attrition when not even you, let alone anyone else, is sure of what you even are… That’s more than music as support group. That’s music as a movement. I don’t know what it’s like to feel like I’m the wrong body, but when I listen to that album, I feel like I’m in the vicinity. I feel the tension. I care about it. I want to do something to help. I want to join the cause. That’s one of the most beautiful things that art can do, when it’s really, really good. It can end wars. Personal ones, if nothing else.
It goes without saying that we’re honored to host such an extraordinary artist in this latest Antiquiet Session. That, we’re chalking up to luck. The credit for these songs being so powerful goes entirely to Laura and the band. It’s a divine gift that this session was so hilariously fun, and so effortlessly perfect.
You folks in the UK can catch Against Me! on tour through November. All of those dates and details are here on againstme.net. The rest of you just need to acquire their newest album if you haven’t yet. Against Me! is one of those bands who have always delivered great songs, but Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a breakthrough, a watershed of inspiration, and it will sink its claws into your attention span and not let go.