Against Me! has been making great punk rock albums for 12 years, but “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” feels like their most personal record to date. The album touches on Laura Jane Grace’s own feelings of alienation as she journeys into this new stage in her life (in 2012, Grace came out as a transgendered woman). Every song on this album is filled with pent-up emotions that have been carried for years, yet it feels like there is something lacking in the end result.
The album opens with the title track, and it’s clear that Grace’s frustrations run deep. The lyrics are biting and filled with the angst of someone who has had to suffer knowing they are not who they are supposed to be. One cannot help but feel the torment the nameless girl of the song had to endure. It is this emotional weight that carries throughout the album. With songs like “Drinking with the Jocks” and “Black Me Out,” Grace uses her rage to bring about emotional responses, but it isn’t until “Two Coffins” that we finally hear what this album could have been.
“Two Coffins” is easily the standout track of the entire album. By slowing the tempo down, Grace’s poignant lyrics come to light. It isn’t rage-filled or a rallying cry. It is sentimental and exhibits vulnerability that is not articulated clearly enough elsewhere. The listener will find the fury and outrage throughout this album, but what of the other emotions one has to be experiencing? The only vestiges of those emotions are contained in that song, and that is where this album misses its mark.
In all fairness, this is a brave album written by an even braver person. Nonetheless, it feels like the anger is ultimately obstructing the album’s truer message from being conveyed.
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