The past few years have been a tumultuous ride for Florida punk band Against Me. The departure of two band members and difficulties finding a label would be enough of a challenge for most groups, but the biggest newsmaker has been frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s decision to publicly come out as transgender — launching herself and her band into territories uncharted by any high-profile band, punk or otherwise.
The result is Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me’s sixth studio album. The title is a dead giveaway — Grace tackles her personal issues in a cathartic and groundbreaking fashion. Originally conceived as a concept album telling the story of a transgender prostitute while Grace was still known as rocker Tom Gabel, the album’s lyrics take listeners on a brutally honest trip through Grace’s deepest internal struggles.
The band sticks to their trusted pop-punk with a folk twist formula that has been cultivated over their previous two albums. Transgender Dysphoria Blues’s title track starts with a familiar military drumbeat followed by a catchy guitar riff and walking bassline, but once Grace’s jagged voice strikes the lyrical tone of the album is clearly set — “You want them to see you like they see any other girl. They just see a faggot. They hold their breath not to catch the sick.”
While sonically the album is no better or worse than 2007’s New Wave or 2010’s White Crosses, the window into Grace’s mind that it provides is simply fascinating. Longtime Against Me fans will find themselves picking through the band’s back catalogue, as Grace’s past lyrics of anger and self-doubt are recontextualized by the revelations in the new album’s lyrics. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a groundbreaking effort that will have mosh pits full of straight males singing along to songs about gender dysphoria for years to come.