THE RECORD: Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues- Total Treble 2014
Against Me! is a blast to listen to and see live. They’ve been in the news over the past year or so since lead singer Tom Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, came out as transgender. The reactions I’ve seen have been really supportive which is awesome to see. I’m supportive too. However, I feel like I have read a lot of critical reviews from people that are expecting the sound of the record to be different. While the record’s called Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I’m not listening to it thinking “this is a transgender-fronted punk rock record”. I’m listening to it thinking, “this is a fucking punk rock record”. and the fact that Grace has come out with such brave honesty, she now has nothing to hide, which only makes her musical performances greater. So many of Grace’s song lyrics are so personal, but they are conveyed in a way that a lot of the audience can relate to and understand the struggle.
It’s fist-in-the-air music, it’s getting anger off your chest music. I’m sure Laura Jane Grace has a lot to get off her chest, and it’s so great that she’s sharing it through her songwriting. I have read stories that she wanted to write a concept album about a transgender prostitute, and while I don’t know how accurate those stories are, I definitely think this is a concept record of sorts. For me, the songs all capture a certain aspect of being on the outside, or being separated from something, whether it’s a current relationship, in society in general, or being apart from an old friend. While Grace obviously wrote these songs about specific subjects, she writes in a way that everyone can take something personal from them.
“Unconditional Love” is one of my favorite tracks. “Even if your love was unconditional/it still wouldn’t be enough to save me” is a dark-sounding line but the way it’s shouted and repeated makes it a mantra that might give someone strength. What I take from that lyric is that you can’t rely on other people to save you- you have to save yourself.
“Osama Bin Lada As The Crucified Christ” really stands out to me, because it has a riff that breaks in and sounds pretty metal and intense. Sequence-wise, it’s the middle track on the record and I think it fits really well here, before the more clean-sounding “Fuckmylife666”. I don’t have it on vinyl yet so I don’t know what’s on side A and side B yet. But that’s what I would think.
Here’s a note. I started writing this review when I had only listened to the record once or twice. Now I can’t stop listening to it. Cheers to you, Laura Jane Grace, true trans soul rebel.
THE BEER: Autocrat Stout- Narragansett Brewing, Providence, RI
Narragansett beer isn’t just a $3 can of beer at a concert. I mean, it is, but they actually have a few delicious brews up their sleeve. The Autocrat is like a dark cup of coffee with freshly roasted beans and a splash of cream in it. I did a little research on this one, and found out that Autocrat actually makes a coffee syrup, like chocolate or other flavored syrup. Apparently the official state drink of Rhode Island is “coffee milk”, according to Wikipedia and the Internet at least. This beer tastes exactly like that, creamy but bittersweet. It pours out of the can a deep espresso brown with a fluffy, cream colored head. Milk stout is one of my favorite beer styles, so I am a bit biased. A great thing about this beer is it’s only a little over 5% ABV, so it’s practically sessionable, which is something that isn’t always seen in stouts. Did I mention it’s in a can? Love it.
THE PAIRING: I’m pairing it with Narragansett’s new stout because much like this record has the simplicity of a punk record, such as Narragansett beer is a simple beer in a 16 oz can. But there’s more to it, and there is something to be respected on both the record and the beer. Transgender Dysphoria Blues has a lot going on with it, and it is a record that isn‘t simply cut and dry. Like how Narragansett is known, at least where I live, for being a cheap can of beer, they can also make something dark and delicious with a lot of flavor to it.