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Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Cover Artwork)

Against Me!

Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria BluesTransgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)
Total Treble

Reviewer Rating: 4
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Contributed by: thepopeofchili-townthepopeofchili-town
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Since you are currently reading Punknews.org, you are no doubt familiar with the backstory of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. If, however, you've been living under a rock for the last three or so years, here's the Cliff Notes version: Band leaves major label, drummer leaves band, is replaced by young g.
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Since you are currently reading Punknews.org, you are no doubt familiar with the backstory of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. If, however, you've been living under a rock for the last three or so years, here's the Cliff Notes version: Band leaves major label, drummer leaves band, is replaced by young gun who reinvigorates band's live show, band forms own label, vocalist comes out as transgender, band begins recording album. Drummer leaves band abruptly, band cancels tour with Bad Religion. Album is re-recorded with temporary drummer. Drummer signs on as a permanent member. Bassist leaves. Fat Mike jumps in to help finish things up. Album is re-recorded once more, and that just about brings us up to speed. It's been an excruciatingly long wait for fans since the release of 2010's White Crosses, but the sixth Against Me! record has finally arrived, and it's an interesting one, to be sure.

New drummer Atom Willard makes his presence felt immediately in the title track's intro, which may very well be the most energetic AM! side one, track one since "TSR," if not "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong." The lyrics on this track, as well it's follow-up "True Trans Soul Rebel" deal with Laura Jane Grace's gender transition in a very upfront and honest way, setting the tone for the rest of the album, originally envisioned as a concept album about a transgender prostitute. While this will no doubt be a subject that the vast majority of Against Me!'s fan base cannot directly relate to, Grace has always had a way with words that makes whatever she was going through at a given time translate universally (Most of us have never had to deal with major label drama and we all still love Searching For a Former Clarity, right?).

Transgender Dysphoria Blues is Against Me!'s most stylistically diverse album in quite some time, musically speaking. It's most divisive song will undoubtedly be "Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ" as there is no more accurate way to describe it than as a pure hard rock song; Imagine "Animal" from New Wave tanked up on a case of Red Bull. Grace's screams here represent the harshest, most raw vocals heard on an Against Me! release since Reinventing Axl Rose. It's wonderful. On the other end of the spectrum is "Two Coffins," the band's first full-blown acoustic ballad since 2005. Written for Grace's daughter, it is both haunting and beautiful.

Elsewhere, the band steamrolls through the Replacements-influenced punk rock with an emphasis on rock that they have been giving us since 2007, with the somber yet hummable "Dead Friend" and absolutely stunning "Paralytic States" (the only song the band didn't preview live before the album's release) standing out particularly. Things come to a close with "Black Me Out." Having been a staple of the band's live shows since not long after the release of White Crosses, at this point it's one of their most popular songs, and it's kind of shocking that it's only now receiving a proper release. It might not have the "grand finale" feel of say, "The Ocean" or "Bamboo Bones," but it's a great track and a fine note to close on.

The one unfortunate element of Transgender Dysphoria Blues that holds it back from pure brilliance is its production value. It's tempting to try and convince oneself that the production is simply "raw," and hearkens back to the band's early days. However, when listening to Reinventing Axl Rose, you would never have to spend your time turning the volume up and down several times in a song in an attempt to make it sound level. It's not charmingly low-fi, it's poorly mixed. Perhaps understandably so, as the album was Frankenstein-ingly recorded and re-recorded in several studios, but it shows, and the record is slightly weakened for it. The volume jumps are distracting. Grace did an excellent job in the producer's chair for Cheap Girls' Giant Orange, so it's a bit disappointing.

That aside, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is another excellent album for Against Me! and one they should be proud of, especially after all of the obstacles they had to climb to get here. The production issues aren't anything an anniversary remastered edition can't take care of a few years down the line, and the songs themselves are phenomenal. If you're still yearning for the band's pre-Fat days, you probably always will be, but if you've been on board since Searching For a Former Clarity, you'll find plenty to love about Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - MetropoleThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Flatliners - CavalcadeThe Clash - London Calling

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
LiveFastDiarrhea (March 6, 2014)

This record sounds super compressed... I mean the songs are good, but there's no rawness to the sound. I feel like with the quality of these songs the production should have been better.

Teboner (February 11, 2014)

meh

droote (February 3, 2014)

I am glad though that they don't work with Butch Vig anymore. He destroyed great tracks with overdubbing everything to shit. Take the song White People for Peace for instance; in itself a great song, but ruined with, at one point, four Lauras shouting at you at the same time, and overdubbing the guitars to the point I don't know what instrument I am listening to.

I prefer this much rawer production on Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

droote (February 3, 2014)

Since Reinventing Axl Rose, the quality of Against Me!'s records have gone downhill. Don't get me wrong, As The Eternal Cowboy and Searching for a Former Clarity are great records, New Wave is okay, White Crosses is pretty meh, and this is below that again. I prefer the pre-Fat AM!, but I can understand they wanting to make different music. But can't they make good music while they are at it? Searching is very different from the "classic" AM!, but it is still great. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is far from great.

I had hoped that this time they would break the trend of making poorer and poorer albums, but nope, they did not. Why can't you make good music, Laura? I know you have it in you!

pokinatcha (January 29, 2014)

My theory about this album is that it's not really much better than White Crosses, it's just OK to like them again.

benflo1208 (January 28, 2014)

You are all crazy, super catchy album, waaaaaaay more edge and plenty harder than previous songs, LOVE IT. The crystal clear-bell-chimeyness of the last few records sounded too clean and safe for me. Leave that for Bad Religion. They can clean TDB up for future releases, but I'll keep the original raw mix (which people will revere in the future and will be collector status). ALBUM RULES!

77jordan (January 28, 2014)

For the record, I didn't notice anything about differing levels between songs, just a shit load of clipping within them, sort of like when you get a shittily (yes I made this word up) pressed vinyl. Maybe it's over-compressed at times, but then again so are Suffer, No Control and Against the Grain (the CD versions). I don't like it but the musical content/value certainly overpowers it.

Indecay (January 25, 2014)

Way better than White Crosses. I've listened to this a lot the last week. Side B is flawless. Last three songs on Side A don't do anything for me though.

HeyLittleFingers (January 24, 2014)

I don't know...expected this to be so much better. A few standouts. Maybe about half is junk. Production is definitely annoying.

misterspike (January 24, 2014)

"Paralytic States" is just a Crusher.

telegraphrocks (January 24, 2014)

Just checked the play-counts on my iPod. I've listened to this album 62 times in the last 9 days.

cheesetits (January 23, 2014)

Way better than their last couple albums combined

xherojuanax (January 23, 2014)

My expectations were a bit too high. It's short, but not very cohesive. This isn't anywhere near as good as Searching, nor is it the best since then, but it's solid. In a lot of reviews I've read, the story of the album overshadows the album itself, and I think that skews some people's perceptions of it.

Filbunke (January 23, 2014)

Only counting the albums, not EP's.

1. As The Eternal Cowboy
2. Reinventing Axl Rose
3. Transgender Dysphoria Blues
4. Searching For A Former Clarity
5. New Wave
6. White Crosses

killtaker (January 23, 2014)

I really don't understand the complaints about the sound quality. I downloaded this from iTunes and I think it sounds fine.

hbwlons3 (January 22, 2014)

"Dead Friend" is a great track, I'm suprised by it being a skip track for some people.

tomripley (January 22, 2014)

every song on this record except "osama bin ladin" is pure gold. as a trans women i feel a huge personal connection to it and it hits me on such a level i know my opinion is skewed, this is my favorite against me album ever. and i'm one of those purists who thinks they haven't made a good album since RAR. but its really sad that the production is so horrid, I feel like the weirdo with the creepstache who mixed everyone's highschool pop punk bands demo could mix an album better than this.

superskabro (January 22, 2014)

Good stuff. But not great. Maybe the gap between "White Crosses" and this hurt their flow so this seems a little "off". I've loved everything they've done ("New Wave" was hit or miss), so I have high expectations. I've just gotta give this some more time to settle in...

theTopher (January 22, 2014)

I love Obama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ in the context of this album. That and a few other really good songs have me inching this toward a 4, but for now I'll stick to 3.5.

mattbeall (January 22, 2014)

I don't love this record...BUT, I really, really like "FuckMyLife666." That's a fucking great song.

thisrespirator (January 22, 2014)

I really love how everyone hates "Drinking With The Jocks", considering everyone cried about them not sounding like a punk band anymore for the past 7 years.

jacknife737 (January 22, 2014)

Too early to tell where it ranks with the rest of their discography, but overall it`s a fantastic record. Black Me Out and the title track in particular are two of the best songs the band has written. The lyrics overall on this record are definitely some of Tom`s best and most interesting work.

But, Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ is by far the worst song they`ve written. It`s unlistenable.

stivy (January 22, 2014)

a couple filler songs but overall the perfect 21st century punk record

Sgt_Mighty (January 22, 2014)

Excellent, straightforward rock with lyrical content that matters.

cpp_ (January 22, 2014)

For someone who doesn't give two shits about the singers personal life, and if anything wish that the singer would give it a rest, I actually like the first half of the album. The music is well written (in the first half), I feel like theres a lot of filler in the 2nd half. Either way still give credit where credit is due, not a bad record, I wouldn't pay to listen to it though.

townshend31 (January 22, 2014)

Excellent album, and worth the wait. Definitely like Clarity in a way. The songs rip live, too.

I like the production better than Vig's. The audio jumps were more noticeable when it was only streaming.

flowerfeeder (January 22, 2014)

Robin just mentioned this album during the news on today's Howard Stern Show. Played SHORT clips from three songs. Howard was all "who is this, never heard of it" and thought it sucked for the most part. He was ok with the part of Unconditional Love he heard. He has shit taste in music, btw, so this is a good thing.

A mention during Robin's news is pretty huge. Kinda wild that the transgender thing is turning out to be the most commerically viable thing they've ever done.

shtinkNUG (January 22, 2014)

i like it. shut the fuck up about it and stop listening if you don't. n00bs

77jordan (January 22, 2014)

I can't give this album any less than 4.5 if only conceptually. I don't care that Laura's transition has got so much hype, because honestly an issue like this needs exposure. I have to give it to Against Me! for staying relevant.

It's also significantly better musically than white crosses which was a little boring frankly. It's pretty bad-ass how it was put out through their own record label and they maintained creative control, which is like half of what punk is haha.

Good job!

VinceMcMahon (January 22, 2014)

Pretty good album. Dead Friends and Unconditional Love are the worst things i've heard in a long time, though, and i've heard Deafheaven, Cold Cave, and the new Pixies, so that's saying a lot.

sciulli (January 22, 2014)

you're horrible.

obviously ridiculous to say in January, but I feel this may end up as my album of the year. I love it so much. Fucking Laura ripped it.

danperrone (January 22, 2014)

outside of the trio of "unconditional love", "drinking with the jocks", and "osama bin laden...", it's a great record. i love the title track and "paralytic states". "fml666" also came out great..."true trans" a little less so, because that lead guitar riff is a little cheesy, but it's still very good.

also i know everyone's back on the am! train now, but don't say you liked new wave or white crosses. those are two horrible records.

macbethmystery (January 22, 2014)

so good, so good...i also love the raw production. only "unconditional love" is somewhat skippable.

televisioneyes (January 22, 2014)

This is definitely one of my favorite albums they have released to date!

filbunke (January 22, 2014)

Their best album since Eternal Cowboy.

The opening track is so good. Love the drums and the bass. "Black Me Out" is old as hell, but great nonetheless.
The production isn't great (especially the drums in "Dead Friend", the cymbals sound terrible) but the album is filled with energy and great songwriting.

thisrespirator (January 22, 2014)

Their best since Searching, and I love New Wave (outside of 2 songs) and White Crosses. And while the production/mixing isn't perfect what-so-ever, I prefer it to Butch Vig's production. All I really want is J. Robbins to produce them again.

ashtraymonument (January 22, 2014)

can't stop listening to it.

singthblues (January 22, 2014)

Excellent album all the way through, no problem with it's mixing, production, or whatever.

I think Tom/Laura did a much better job on this than on Cheap Girls - Giant Orange, since it was mentioned in the review. That record, while decent, sounds like a completely fucking different band, either live or on previous recordings. Guitars sound huge, overproduced in my opinion.

hayman (January 22, 2014)

Agree 100% about the mixing but the songs are brilliant. Great album.

Angiepants (January 22, 2014)

8====D

dicks in comments

ianissuperrad (January 21, 2014)

Starts strong, gets real bad in the middle, then ends strong.

hbwlons3 (January 21, 2014)

Great record, sooo much better than the last two.

exitenglish1208 (January 21, 2014)

paralytic states is such a phenomenal song, and this a fantastic all around record. so glad i got to see them on this tour.

enigmaticpsychotic (January 21, 2014)

Saw them Saturday night. Never been a huge fan. Still, very impressed with the live show. But not enough to add them to my regular rotation. It was cool to see the reception they got.

hobbzoid (January 21, 2014)

it's so good! probably they best album. smoke stuff.

notfeelingcreative (January 21, 2014)

This record is brilliant. Ordered a copy of White Crosses with it as I never gave that album a fair listen i decided that it's incredibly underrated.

Sciulli (January 21, 2014)

I'm fine with the production. Amazing album.

The two acoustic songs they released, "True Trans" and "FML666," sound amazing. Hopefully they do a full release like that.

pwnther (January 21, 2014)

Everything I was hoping it would be. 10 songs of pure awesome. Well, 9 songs- I usually skip Unconditional Love. But every Against Me! album has at least one song I skip. Except As the Eternal Cowboy. Holy shit I love that album.

MN_DrNick (January 21, 2014)

Best album they've done since "Searching for a Former Clarity".

Teboner (January 21, 2014)

so stoked on this record
this and new albums out or coming out by
Supersuckers
Anchor Arms
Larry Arms
already a better music year than 2013!!!

yinzer (January 21, 2014)

Idk I've listened to this a bunch of times. Just not feeling it. Maybe it will "grown on me" ? Now the new Larry Arms album , that's some good stuff right there.

coolhand (January 21, 2014)

It's unreal how good this album is. The songwriting is top notch. Best AM! in years.

eazyd2 (January 21, 2014)

i heard paralytic state at least 7 or 8 months ago

also this album is the fuckin bomb

score is for the reviewer

charliedecker (January 21, 2014)

Best AM! record since SFAFC.

thepasswordistaco (January 21, 2014)

i feel like i could more accurately describe that particular track as "classic metal"

1039smoothie (January 21, 2014)

Beats the shit out of everything else coming out lately

telegraphrocks (January 21, 2014)

Goddamn great.
I absolutely "adore" this album.
Not going to argue anyone else's views, but I can't stop listening to this (except to put "Metropole" on, and go right back to this).

deputywinston (January 21, 2014)

Good album, possibly great. Unfortunately, this is one of the rare cases where I think a producer could have helped improve the record a lot. I very much get the vibe that LJG wrote this album alone in a dark room somewhere, showed the songs to her bandmates (some of whom were fill-ins she had no chance to earn a musical rapport with yet), they recorded the songs without tinkering with them at all like a band should, and that's the album we have. While that's a process that works for some, on this album there's a strange lack of dynamism, a flatness to everything that Against Me! never really suffered from previous to this album. However, there are some amazing songs on this album, and the more I listen to it, the better it gets.

ak3punk (January 21, 2014)

Great album. Emotional, energetic, and probably the most important punk rock album of the year.

Also production sounds fine, I've been listening to my iTunes files all morning with good headphones. Not sure what all the fuss is about.

DesertBurst92 (January 21, 2014)

this album hasn't left my record player at all. i can't get enough!

renaldo69 (January 21, 2014)

The lyrical content and emotion here really ups the ante. Heard people bitching about production etc etc but at the end of the day, it's great...really graet effin music.

johnathanrambo (January 21, 2014)

To me, this album is perfect. It's short, well written, emotional, passionate, and catchy as hell. Brings me right back to the RAR and ATEC days. I have been streaming it for a week at home, at work, and in my car. Can't get enough.

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