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by Dan Weiss

January 23, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Against Me!

by Dan Weiss  |  January 23, 2014

Against Me! have had quite the evolution. Founder Tom Gabel's misanthropic campfire sing-alongs -- like "Sink.Florida.Sink" and "Baby, I'm an Anarchist!" -- proved that punks will shout along to anything, even acoustic guitars. By the time he wrote the danceable "Don't Lose Touch," hooks were forming in the mix, and by 2007 the band went fully electric for a stone-cold classic of a major-label debut, New Wave. The album features some of the best alt guitar of the 2000s, with tracks like "Americans Abroad," "White People for Peace," the ba-ba-ba-heavy power pop of "Thrash Unreal" and the restless anthem "Up the Cuts"; meanwhile, the dark balm of "The Ocean" turned out to be prescient as Gabel imagined a different life as a woman named Laura.

After the excellent, E Street-inflected White Crosses, and when anthems like "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" and "High Pressure Low" didn't make a commercial splash, Gabel left the majors and took to Rolling Stone for an announcement unprecedented in rock 'n' roll: After struggling for years with gender dysphoria, Gabel would be transitioning to a woman named Laura Jane Grace. Four years later, after a surprising and heartening amount of rousing fan support, Transgender Dysphoria Blues has emerged, shorter and more lo-fi than most probably expected, though nonetheless filled with anthems that couldn't have been written by anyone else: "F*ckMyLife666," "True Trans Soul Rebel," "Black Me Out," the title tune and "Unconditional Love." These are some of Grace's catchiest songs ever, and also some of the darkest, centered around her transition and the fictional narrative of a transgender prostitute's travails. Punk has never seen an album like it, and Against Me! have the talent to promise more.

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