Growing up, the one common musical thread for my group of friends was Against Me! Our early enthusiasm for the Florida band made us sort of apologists for later albums that, in truth, lost the essence of what we loved about the band in the first placein particular, the past two albums, 2007's New Wave and 2010's White Crosses. Those albums were produced to an uncomfortable sheen, and the lighter, poppier sound was a shift in a long swing none of us saw coming, partly because the band's demos/b-sides, like Total Clarity and Black Crosses, still embraced a rougher edge.
But on Transgender Dysphoria Blues, no apologies are necessary. The band has found a way to make its evolved sound genuinely work. Change is good, in more ways than one. Laura Jane Grace, who up until recently was Tom Gabel, busts out the usual politics, now more personal than ever. The production is nearly back to the rawness of the early years but Against Me!'s pop sensibilities are in full force, like with the catchy chorus on the title track where Grace sings, "You want them to notice/the ragged ends on your summer dress/You want them to see you like they see any other girl." The driving punk has been refined to a glorious dance between the contemplative ("Unconditional Love") and the angry ("Black Me Out.") It's the album the band absolutely needed to make, and one that I needed to hear: a nod to the past yet a determined step forward. "Fuckmylife666" sums that idea up nicely: "All things made to be destroyed, all moments meant to pass."