For better and for worse, Punk Rock has changed dramatically from its original anger-fuelled political ideologies. However, whereas it’s been difficult to find any punk rock bands since the early nineties in the mainstream eye creating music with any meaning past ‘having a good time’, Against Me! always belonged in some way to an older school. Their status in the punk scene partially explains the massive reaction to front-woman Laura Jane Grace’s revelation in May 2012 that she was transgender, and planned on living as a woman.

Here, punk rock finally showed its true worth, as friends such as Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan offered full support, backed up by punks all over the world. In some ways, Grace couldn’t have picked a better genre in which to belong.

Almost two years later, Against Me! have reached the stage where they feel able to musically explore the issues that Grace helped bring into the open. As the title suggests, there is a hefty slice of feeling out of place on this record, and Grace is not afraid to reveal her brutal emotional turmoil lyrically. The powerful, call-to-arms title track especially is unforgiving in its exploration of Grace’s tough experiences: “You want them to see you like they see every other girl/They just see a faggot”.

Musically, the record is not a great departure from the band’s previous work, driving open chords and anthemic melodies, The Gaslight Anthem but with a point to prove. No track clocks in past 3’30″ and yet the record feels more determined than rushed, only stopping for breath on acoustic track ‘Two Coffins’, the climax of the middle section of the album, where Grace showcases her lyrical ability that helped popularize the band.

There is undoubtedly a lot of anger being unleashed on this record, the final track ‘Black Me Out’ especially rages against the ignorance of society, as Grace admits her desire to “Piss on the walls of your house”, and old fans can rest assured that Grace’s whiskey strained vocals still pack the same punch. The album can sometimes feel a bit of a one trick pony but its true power comes from the fan base behind the band, who will be singing their hearts out to these songs regardless of Grace’s gender.

Gareth Dawson

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