REVIEW: Against Me! – True Trans EP

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Artist: Against Me!
Album: True Rans
Genre: Punk

Against Me! are not out to please everyone, nor do they run around spitefully pissing everyone off. For whatever reason, though, the collective cynicism of the punk community is routinely shot across their bow citing every superficial thing from choice in record labels down to nitpicky reservations over production. On the other hand, one would be hard pressed to search out a disparaging opinion of the band as songwriters and musicians and isn’t that why you’re here today? Let’s talk about True Trans, a two-song digital EP available for free (for a limited time) on the band’s website.

First of all, both are superb. They are not fan-service acoustic versions where the chords are strummed perfunctorily and predictably and necessarily. There’s decisive arrangement even in its minimalism. The acoustic guitar is percussive as it is melodic. James or Laura are twisting volume knobs on electric guitars and laying out a sonic foundation and it achieves a dramatic, sort of orchestrated effect that sometimes invokes horns. It’s a little detail but it makes a difference.

With bandmates dropping off the roster faster than ever, this effort has become even more about Laura. There is no subtlety regarding subject matter and there’s really no reason for there to be. One could argue Against Me! has an entire back catalogue of “subtle” compared to this EP.

True Trans can be seen as a ceremonial introduction of Laura Jane Grace; the first official Against Me! release since her coming out as transgender over a year ago. Already a relentlessly straightforward, honest, and confrontational group, this EP is raw and distilled in a way not seen in some time. (think Crime As Forgiven By) Unlike the Crime EP, though, there is  greater focus. Over the years anyone following the band has seen the camera turned back onto the band, whether examining the group as a whole as in New Wave or gradually becoming more personal as in some of White Crosses. 

“FuckMyLife666” is immediately folksy and comfortable in its own skin. This one leans a bit more on the side of poetry than song. You’ll find compelling melodies and gorgeous lyrics, but no hooky choruses. It’s not unfamiliar territory and is overall an emotionally weighty and personal couple of minutes.  Subjectively, this track carries a characteristic melody; It is one of finality that seems to either signify the end of the record or, perhaps given the subject matter of the upcoming release, the beginning. There is an asuredness in Laura’s voice, in any event, that something is being left behind.

“True Trans Soul Rebel” will tuck itself neatly into the memory of all who let it enter their ears. The band (or Grace alone, perhaps) provides a barbed counterpoint to the previous track with a singable chorus that doubtless will fill every corner of every venue Against Me! visits this year. It does a funny thing in its lyrics, invoking all sorts of rock and roll lyric conventions but infusing them with new meaning assuming one has followed the news of the band this past year and then some. “Who’s gonna take you home tonight,” carries with it a sorrow that maybe wouldn’t be there if it was someone else who was singing. Does her voice seem to get a bit shaky during the chorus? Is there more conviction in these words than ever before? Your milage may vary, but for many this EP and the upcoming full-length will be a bit of an emotional odyssey.

On a lighter note, there’s this subtle vibe of Bowie in some of the vocal delivery, or perhaps the author is imagining things. You decide.

Score: 10/10
Review written by: Chris Lawless

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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