Album of the Year: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me!
There are great albums, then there are great albums with deep, personal substance and societal importance that can’t be matched by counterparts: Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me! is one of those albums and is thus Riffyou.com’s ‘Album of the Year.’
As most of you know by now, Against Me! changed forever in 2012 when frontperson Tom Gabel announced via Rolling Stone that after years of struggling with his identity, was transitioning into life as a woman. Soon arrived Laura Jane Grace and a bold new era for a person, and a band, that never played it safe.
What truly made Transgender Dysphoria Blues the brilliance that it is, is that it’s an album with uncompromising honesty in the face of a society that doesn’t yet fully embrace or understand what it means, or feels, to be transgender. From the first note to the last, this topic is not just explored, it is forcefully pushed into the listener. You are here to educated.
It almost had to be that way, because subtlety wouldn’t have worked on this album. Although Grace had spoken in many, many, many interviews about what brought her to the person she is today, hearing the story on album was the connecting force needed. On it, she spoke to each and every listener that chose to listen, bringing in each person and giving him or her the opportunity to understand and accept who she is.
For those who chose to listen, the album was either going to become what further cemented a bond with Against Me! or disassembled it quickly. When you hear lines like “There’s no cunt in your strut,” or “You want them to see you like they see every other girl, they just see a faggot,” sung in the context that they are, you’re going to react strongly one way or the other. These aren’t ho-hum moments.
“We seem to have a fan base that is fairly open-minded – more so than that a pop band, where people are less invested. People who generally listen to our band seem to have an open mind and are open to alternative views of anything,” explained Against Me! guitarist James Bowman in an interview earlier this year with Riffyou.com. “So, at least we had that. But in general, people are going to think what they want to think.
He continued: “There was definitely nothing in [this album] that made me feel uncomfortable and nothing in it struck me as ‘oh shit!’ It’s cool content – it takes courage and heart to talk about things that aren’t a mainstream opinion. I’ve always loved that [about Grace].”
That courage and heart in which Bowman speaks of are the ever-present qualities of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. If you can’t, or choose not to take anything else from it, you have to at least be able to respect what it took to put an album like this into a world that in many ways is still a very conservative and bigoted place. This album was equally a big, ‘Here I am!’ and ‘Take it or leave it.’
Riffyou.com chose to take it, embrace it and admire Grace’s ability to not just fearlessly convey years of struggle and eventual self-acceptance, but also do it in a manner that still rocks. From the words, to the voice, to the hooks, to the thrusting instrumentation, this album is an absolute force and one that we are thrilled to have in our world.
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