REVIEW: Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues/Narragansett Autocrat Stout

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 isnt 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.


REVIEW: Heavy Breath “Muddy Life” [EP]/New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper

One of my jobs in the music industry is a live audio engineer at a few different venues around Connecticut. So I see a lot of local acts on a regular basis. Although I have a certain amount of respect for all my local musicians, there are a few bands that are just so incredibly awesome that I really look forward to seeing. Heavy Breath is one of them. I was introduced to them last year when they opened for Old Man Gloom at the Space in Hamden, CT. They recently released an EP titled Muddy Life, which will be coming out on a 12-inch this spring on Battle Stag Records and is available now on their bandcamp page.

THE RECORD: Heavy Breath Muddy Life Battle Stag Records

Muddy Life cover art

With a name like Muddy Life, I was expecting slow sludge, but I think a truer description would be a roundhouse kick to the gut. I like the contrast between the screams and the more melodic vocals on “Chekhov’s Bomb”, a track that also name checks the album title (“Complacency is enemy because this is Chekhov’s bomb/It’s a muddy life”).

“Be The Prometheus” is my favorite track of the three. It’s got those fast, punk rock drums with heavy, slower guitar riffs in between that I totally dig.

and of course, as someone who works in sound on a regular basis, I think the mix is well done on all of these tracks. Sometimes sludgy guitars get lost in a mix but all the instrumentation is heard really clearly and well-balanced.

Even the artwork is awesome- I am a big fan of vikings, so the combination of a horned helmet and a battle axe make for an awesome cover. I was told that it’s actually a screencap from the most recent season of Dexter, so I don’t know if that’s what’s going to be on the cover of the physical album. If it’s not, I hope there horns involved regardless.

My only negative thing to say is that there’s only 3 tracks. They totally leave me wanting more. I guess I’ll have to check them out live again, because Heavy Breath is a band that needs to be cranked up and rocked out to.

THE BREW: Imperial Stout Trooper- New England Brewing Co.- New Haven, CT*p-x84gkbZK6LLOFKViRYSqZeTn7UM0Pp4nPt-shA0_/imperial_stout_trooper_label.jpg

I’m definitely a lover of stouts. They are my favorite beer style and although I enjoy plenty of them, the Imperial Stout Trooper is my favorite. It’s made right in my home of New Haven, CT AND the name is a Star Wars reference. What’s not to love? But even if it was made somewhere else and wasn’t Star Wars-related, it’s a great example of the stout style. The color is almost black, with a thin tawny head. Aromas of sweet milk chocolate, smooth, creamy mouthfeel. It’s great aged, or cask-conditioned in bourbon barrels.

THE PAIRING: I try to pair local bands with local brews whenever possible. This in-your-face EP needed a big beer to drink with it. Nebco’s Stout Trooper, like Heavy Breath’s music, is massive, but it goes down easy. Delicious on the ears and palate. Some stouts are tasty but sometimes too intense and difficult to drink. Kind of like some hardcore and metal bands. Heavy Breath’s music has a lot going on with it, but one of those qualities is a sort of punk rock sensibility that draws you in immediately. I would probably drink this beer either before or after seeing this band live, but not during because I wouldn’t want to pit it out with a tulip glass in my hand. And let’s be honest, this isn’t a band you’re going to watch live and stand still for.

REVIEW: The Beards “Having A Beard Is The New Not Having A Beard”/Northcoast Old Rasputin

If you know me in person at all, you will know that as much as I love a good beer, and I love a good record, I also love a good beard. This review is going to be as light-hearted as this record, but sometimes that’s what you need. We can’t be serious and beard-free all the time.

THE RECORD: The Beards- Having A Beard Is The New Not Having A Beard– 2012 think I fell in love with The Beards before I even listened to their record. They are exactly what you think they are; a band of bearded men that writes songs about such. It should go without saying that I discovered this band through the world of college radio, where a record such as this one can totally be embraced. Yes, they are ridiculous. But listen to this record and try not to smile. It’s impossible. And more times than not, these are the records that you need, like I said earlier about this review. So here we go.

Album opener, “I’m In The Mood For Beards” is a rocker about being in the mood. Not just for making love. But making sweet, sweet BEARDED love. If you weren’t sure, skip ahead to track 4, “You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man”. Lead by synths and power chords and  I think there’s a part where they rhyme “man” with “mammary gland”. Also “watering can”. This might be the most ridiculous song on the album, which is quite a feat if you listen to the whole thing.

Now, if you decided to make a negative consideration to aforementioned song, track 6 “Still Got My Beard” is a bluesy answer to the heartbreak and general sadness of life. It sort of sounds like a Tom Waits song, actually. You might have just received a Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis, but this song puts it all into perspective. You still got a beard. Alright. Maybe that was reaching a bit.

Now onto a serious matter. “This Beard Stays” is about the plight of someone who is urged to shave their beard to enter the workforce. It’s practically a political anthem. I can totally get behind these lyrics. I don’t think you should be prejudiced by anything when trying to get a job. Gender, age, tattoos, or BEARDS.

Finally, the album closer “Beard Related Song Number 39”, I am pretty sure is a pirate song. It definitely sounds like they are marching and banging on, albeit well-tuned, pots.

THE BREW: Northcoast- Old Rasputin

I forget how much I really enjoy Northcoast’s beers. Brother Thelonious, their belgian abbey-style ale, is my favorite. But Old Rasputin comes close behind. This old-fashioned Russian Imperial stout is dark, with a hint of sweetness. Roasted malts on the nose and taste make it full-bodied and delicious. Pours black as night with a thick, fluffy head. Perfect for a cold winter day.

THE PAIRING: Sometimes you need to judge a book (or brew) by its cover. The way I see it is that brewing companies make cool labels for a reason. They draw in your attention to make you want to try something. And I am more than willing to fall for this marketing, especially when consuming beer. So I chose Old Rasputin to pair with the Beards’ record because it has a wonderful beard on the cover. It’s also a heavy, dark, Russian Imperial stout. I feel like Russians often have great beards.

The label says “A sincere friend is not born instantly.” in Russian. A sincere beard is not born instantly, either.