I recently read (or listened to, as it was on Audible rather than a physical book) Against Me!’s singer’s autobiography. I hadn’t been a fan previously, didn’t really know the band. I got curious about it as their former drummer Jay Weinberg (who actually turns out wasn’t that big a part of the story) became the new drummer in Slipknot.
That book had everything; class war, betrayal, bereavement, record industry inside information, conflict, relationship drama and a really intelligent and well spoken author delivering an insightful and interesting story of self-discovery and identity. Couldn’t have asked for a better rock biography.
That obviously lead me to try out some of the band’s music, like the raw and political debut album, and the angry anti-music business conceptual third album, the commercial and controversial White Crosses. Then of course; I heard this album.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect album. Its all subjective, every lyric, every note, every drum beat, the production, the running order, the ratio of familiarity to innovation. Its all incredibly subjective and you can nitpick anything. That being said…
This album has such a perfect length, perfect lack of filler, perfect production job that’s big but not over polished, perfect running order and such excellent lyrics. Now I know its all highly political and if you are strongly anti-Trans you are never going to like the album anyway, but let’s just pretend such people won’t be reading some Irish nerd’s music blog and move on.
I may be a bleeding heart liberal; but that isn’t what makes the album good. You could be talking about these issues and write bad songs. You could mishandle the tone and have hamfisted lyrics. You could have a terrible production job that spoils good music. There’s nothing like that here.
The lyrics are so brilliantly honest, biting and insightful. Laura’s lyrics are really top-drawer stuff; up there with the best lyricists out there, like Dave Wyndrof and Neil Fallon. Coupled with vocal delivery that ranges from vulnerable to snarling to explosive, they really take on a life of their own and paint such an evocative picture. I don’t know if it is due to having had already read the book, but you can just picture everything in your mind’s eye.
‘Black Me Out’ for example, when she snarls ‘I just want to chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers, as if you were a kingmaker. Black me out.’ and ‘As if you were my pimp, as if I was your fucking whore’ the sheer raw emotion in the vocals are just breathtaking and you feel like you are right there in the room with them. During ‘Two Coffins’ the gentle tone of the vocal can almost make me cry. Furthermore in ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ there is a breakdown dynamic to the music where she wails ‘you should have been a mother, you should have been a wife’ which sounds so wounded it is almost touching.
Brilliant lyrics, brilliant vocals. On top of that, as above, it sounds fantastic. It has the perfect mix of rawness and polish, you can really hear the power of the guitar differently depending on how hard the strings are hit. There’s a drum fill in the jaunty shuffling title track and you can hear the toms and cymbals so clearly you can literally picture the exact direction the cymbal is vibrating in.
The musical direction is nice and varied. With folsky twang one minute, indie buzz the next, alternative rock leads after that and punk power following that. ‘Unconditional Love’ even sounds like Warning-era Green Day. There’s something for everyone here. Its the kind of album that literally every track is a must hear song. There isn’t one you could cut, not one you could skip, nothing that needs extending or shortening. It seems pretty much the perfect length.
Overall; this is pretty much as good as a rock album can get. There’s great music, a great sound, there’s honest and depth, and best of all there’s no wasted time or unnecessary fat. If you haven’t heard it, check it out.