Album Review: Against Me! – ‘Shape Shift With Me’

Gainesville punk rockers Against Me! don’t do things by halves. They are renowned for pouring their hearts and souls into every record that they make, and this could not be […]

Gainesville punk rockers Against Me! don’t do things by halves. They are renowned for pouring their hearts and souls into every record that they make, and this could not be truer of inspirational front woman Laura Jane Grace.

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Three years ago, the iconic ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ exploded into life and changed the way that many of us perceive the gender binary. A painstakingly beautiful album telling the story of a transgender prostitute, it mirrored some of Grace’s own experiences and feelings coming out as a trans woman, not only to her band mates but to the world at large. If ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ was an outpouring of emotional honesty and vulnerability, then 2016 album ‘Shape Shift With Me’ is a triumphant reclamation of those emotions and a giant ‘fuck you’ to skeptics, bigots, and the ghosts of lovers’ past.

First track ‘Pro Vision L-3’ is immediately personal and political, themes that intermingle essentially throughout the album. It refers to invasive airport security scanners and how identity is scrutinised and denied by the government and authority figures. It is loud, angry, unforgiving, everything that good punk should be. Grace’s return to shouting vocals echo early Against Me! tracks, the rawness and simplicity of the guitar focus our attention on the important lyrical message.

‘Boyfriend’ is laden with fantastic metaphors about a love gone stale, a love turned to hatred. It is also cathartic; Grace spits out a phrase full of loathing, ‘You’re treating me like a boyfriend, some dumb fucking boyfriend.’ I never knew the bitterness in mourning an ex could be captured so accurately in song form, but Grace does it perfectly.

Fantastically titled ‘Delicate, Petite, & Other Things I’ll Never Be’ with its grinding bass line and explosive chorus reminded me of early Manic Street Preachers. It wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Holy Bible’, with an over whelming sense of foreboding hiding amongst the echoing guitar. Single ‘333’, with its distinctive riff and infectious hook, is a certified anthem. It’s all about intimacy and what prevents people, both cisgender and transgender, from achieving it.

The most hard hitting track on the album for me was undeniably ‘Norse Truth’. This brooding, sprawling spoken-word tirade deals with violence, prejudice, heartbreak, and revenge. Within it, the album’s namesake spikes a desperate if not sarcastic plea to the loved one, a plea that has seemingly come too late: “C’mon! Shape shift with me! What have you got to lose?”

‘Shape Shift With Me’ is full of fantastic punk rock melodies, with the primal emotion of a band just starting out on the scene. In a way it is a rebirth, seeing Grace and the new band members on the other side of a cultural and personal transition. I can’t wait to see what the future holds them, and I’m ridiculously excited to be seeing them on their UK tour this December.

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Alex Inkley

About Alex Inkley

Since graduating from The University of Leeds, Alex has had stints writing for Champion Up North, Time Out Leeds, and has contributed to the CTR Travel Writing Program. Now a freelance journalist, they enjoy blogging about all things arts + culture related.