The past four years have been a helluva ride for Against Me!
The band has gone through being dropped from Sire records, lead singer Laura Jane Grace coming out as a transgender woman, and a couple of lineup changes. Through it all, they released one of the best albums of 2014, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Now they're back with their seventh studio album, Shape Shift With Me.
Like Transgender Dysphoria Blues, it still focuses on Laura Jane Grace's sexuality, but manages to replace the pop-driven hooks for something raw and more abrasive. Shape Shift With Me is a more personal record than its predecessor and offers the audience a look into Grace's past relationships.
Cohesive and thematically consistent, Shape Shift With Me focuses on the heartbreak of being dedicated to someone, but ultimately feeling used by that person. Grace, in a press release, detailed the band's direction when crafting the album:
I wanted to write the transgender response to the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St., Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville, and the Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free. All those records are relationship records. There’s been an infinite amount of records talking about what love means from a cisgender perspective. I wanted to present the trans perspective on sex, love, and heartbreak...
In all, Shape Shift With Me is 38-plus minutes of blistering punk rock. Opening with "ProVision L-3," Against Me! wastes little time in setting a high-energy atmosphere. Drummer Atom Willard, formerly of Rocket From the Crypt, displays his furious ability for nearly two straight minutes, setting the tone for the rest of the album. "ProVision L-3" is the most political track on the album, the title being taken from the airport security scanners of the same name.
"Delicate, Petite & Other Things I'll Never Be" has a somber feel with Inge Johansson's driving bass-line, James Bowman's guitar effects and Grace delivering her verses in signature Iggy Pop-esque monotone. "Dead Rats" has Grace venting before the band kicks into overdrive and belts out in unison, "Shallow grave for all dead rats! I like the dark clouds the best!"
While the album as a whole is nothing short of spectacular, the two standout songs "All This (And More)" and "Norse Truth," rise above the rest. "All This (And More)" is the album closer and does an incredible job at tying up any loose ends. Against Me! does a remarkable job of echoing The Rolling Stones' vibe as Grace speaks on ridding herself of her past regrets.
"Norse Truth," which weaves in the title of the record into the lyrics, offers everything this album is about: unapologetic, erotic, angry, and personal wordplay with classic Against Me! musicianship. The song is a testament to the growth of the group, and serves as the defining moment on not only this album, but possibly of their career.
Shape Shift With Me balances the sound of vintage punk rock anthems with modern subject matter and clean production. It's Laura Jane Grace coming into her own and writing songs from a much needed perspective. Being transgender is at the heart of this record, but most of all it is about the roller coaster ride of human emotion.
Shape Shift With Me is now available on Amazon. You can also stream the full album above courtesy of Spotify.
For Against Me! latest music, news, and tour dates, check out their Zumic artist page.