Written By: Fletcher Bonin
Against Me! follows up their critically acclaimed 2014 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues with their latest twelve track project Shape Shift with Me. On the track ‘333’ lead singer Laura Jane Grace shout-sings “All the devils that you don’t know can all come along for the ride I wanna be as close as I can get to you.” This, I think perfectly sets the tone for this album. Like Transgender Dysphoria Blues, this new album, released just last September deals with the struggles of categorization in America and not fitting comfortably into the status quo. Though these are themes ambiguously ascribed to all punk music, they hold a special meaning for lead singer Laura Jane Grace, who has come out and lives as a transgender woman. Shape Shift with Me is Grace’s plea for understanding, not only for others but for herself as well.
Nineteen years after the band’s original formation (1997), this album clearly shows that they have lost none of their archetypal American punk sound while simultaneously maintaining pure originality. Each track is characterized as you might expect by hard guitar chord strikes and elegantly loose-cannon drum solos. Grace’s vocals are screamed and often guttural in delivery. Their sound incites rebellion and anti-establishment sentiment all in one. On the track ’12:03’ Grace yells “I prefer to live a little bit reckless” before later singing “I don’t know, fuck it.” With these lyrics, sung, screamed, yelled, said or otherwise, I heard only the truth of Grace’s message, that she takes solace in punk rock, an asylum of sorts from the discomfort and confusion of daily life. We all have these experiences and contempt for the status quo at times, Grace just chooses to rock out about it.
My favorite track off the album is ‘Boyfriend’. To me, this is a song born of pain and worked roughly into beauty by Grace’s screaming guitar and poignant lyrics. She sings, “I don’t wanna waste a high hangin around someplace I never was, treating me like a boyfriend, some dumb fucking boyfriend.” It seems to me that this song, more than any others off the album expresses the pure contempt for categorization and homogeneity and a refusal to be typecast. Against Me! sings and plays as though the world is just that, against them, and from this frustration they are able to weld pure, unadulterated punk rock the likes of which has been iconic since the 90’s.