Against Me!’s latest album is an intricately weaved conceptual arc about a transgendered prostitute and it’s also their first album following lead singer Laura Jane Grace — who used to go by the name Tom Gabel — coming out as a transgendered woman. It’s not surprising that it’s also the best thing they’ve done since 2005’s Searching for a Former Clarity, itself a concept album dealing with death from the complications of AIDS, and making veiled references to Grace’s gender identity on the title track that now seems oddly prescient and haunting.

Where 2007’s New Wave and 2010’s White Crosses were slickly produced, major-label pop pieces that left a lot to be desired, Transgender Dysphoria Blues finds the perfect marriage of pop sensibilities and a sense of reckless urgency. Understandably, this makes for a truly heartbreaking and powerful record and one that, as ironic as it may be, feels like a return to form for the band.

The record is an insane spiral of shame, empowerment and disillusion. Ranging from spite and anger on tracks like the bitter, bile-tinged “Drinking with the Jocks,” to hauntingly gorgeous reflections on death and parenthood on the achingly sad “Two Coffins,” the album chills. “I don’t want to see the world that way anymore/I don’t want to feel that weak and insecure/As if you were my fucking pimp/As if I was your fucking whore,” sings Grace on the poignant album closer, “Black Me Out,” and it’s clear that she’s done with all the bullshit façades – this is pure, unadulterated, fiery honesty, and it’s awesome.

By Nick Laugher

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