Staff Pick: Against Me! maintains momentum through big changes

From the May 8, 2014 edition

When Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace, formerly known as Tom Gabel, came out as a transgender woman in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, it signaled a fresh start following a rocky period marred by label strife and lineup changes that left Grace and guitarist James Bowman as the band’s sole remaining original members.

Considering the circumstances, it’s surprising how little has actually changed on the band’s 2013 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Sure, there’s an increased focus on gender issues (when Grace howls “There’s a brave new world that’s raging inside me” on “FuckMyLife666” it’s clear she’s addressing her transformation), and the band’s sound, which was buffed to a radio-friendly shine on albums like White Crosses, is slightly scruffier on damaged revenge fantasies like “Black Me Out.” But Grace and Co. still have a knack for turning out fist-pumping punk earworms as impossible to shake as the singer’s well-placed convictions, and this collection of tunes effortlessly hooks listeners even as it rages.

Ryan Russell photo