"Black Me Out"
January 21, 2014 - Total Treble
It’s been nearly four years since Against Me!’s last release, 2010’s glossy, disappointing White Crosses. Since then, they left Sire Records, the rhythm section bailed, Butch Vig didn’t lower his studio rates—oh yeah, and frontman Tom Gabel is now frontwoman Laura Jane Grace. It’s that last topic that drives the bulk of Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ 10 tracks, but it’s done so in a way that makes the topic of gender identity disorder approachable through universal feelings of alienation (“Drinking With The Jocks”) confusion (the title track) and finding true love (“Two Coffins”). Grace’s vocals are just as powerful as any point in Against Me!’s career, and her actual vocal range seems largely unaffected from the ongoing gender transition. The music varies from totally kickass, Dropkick Murphys-esque pub-punk (“Unconditional Love”) and fangs-out power-rock (“Black Me Out”) to meandering numbers better left as B-sides (“Paralytic States,” “Dead Friend”). Transgender Dysphoria Blues definitely isn’t perfect, but its high points are high enough that even a fuckface like yours truly can’t ignore its flashes of brilliance.