Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace at The Double Door
In honor of Laura Jane Grace playing a scaled down show December 30th at nearby rock n’ roll slop house (and venue of our favorite scene from High Fidelity), the Double Door, we’re ranking all of Against Me!’s full length studio albums from great to greatest.
6. White Crosses
In many ways this was the album the broke the camel’s back. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where Against Me! is now as a band, but White Crosses remains as a vestige of everything they were right before that point. It’s the last album to contain musical contributions from now departed Warren Oakes, George Robelo, Andrew Seaward, and Tom Gabel. Also, the last album to contain songs blatantly about global politics. It was shortly after the release that the band, as it was, burned out on tour, and went into a perpetual vegetable state that stretched out over years. And, in retrospect, all the best songs on this album were the ones blatantly about gender identity despondency.
5. New Wave
Spin Magazine declared New Wave the best album of 2007 which is sort of strange because, while still baller, it’s not Against Me!’s ballerest album. In hindsight, Spin’s #1 spot was probably presented to Against Me! for this effort because: (a) The band signed to Sire, and the major label backing secured the roll-out of the record as the “break-out” record; (b) The album was produced by rock radio heavyweight, Butch Vig; (c) At 10-tracks, it’s a tight, digestible, album; (d) It contains a cameo vocal performance by Tegan of Tegan & Sara on “Bourne on the FM Waves of the Hear,” monumental Summer romance duet about the hopelessness and ephemeral nature of Summer romances literally complicated by the fact that one of the singers is a lesbian, thereby not interested in the male singer, who, it would later be revealed, does not identify as male.
Also, an extraordinarily meta moment occurred when the tour to promote the album landed the band on Late Show with David Letterman. The song performed for the live television broadcast was “Stop!” which contains the lyric, “it could be me on the TV in your living room.”
4. Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose
In the road tour documentary, We’re Never Going Home, Boysetsfire bassist Robert Ehrenbrand recants a story he heard from a record producer who worked with Axl Rose on what would become Chinese Democracy. Allegedly, when Axl Rose Rose discovered the Against Me! record that bore his namesake, he was so enraged that he turned toward voodoo and lashed out at an Against Me! effigy. Which entirely makes sense. The album is about everything that Axl is not. It’s about playing music for all the right reasons. And even years down the road, after Against Me! has succombed to many of the pitfalls that plagued Guns N’ Roses, the endless slew of rotating members, the label controversies, the post-poned release dates, the image changes, they’re still a band that plays “loud and hard every night.”
3. Against Me! As The Eternal Cowboy
They say the difficult thing about writing the 2nd record is that you had your whole life to write the 1st, but you only get a few months to write the 2nd, which makes the achievement that is The Eternal Cowboy all the more laudable when considering the recording process started a scant 12-months after the release of their debut LP. Also, was Laura Jane Grace the first person to come up with “Cliche Guevara?” Someone must’ve thought of that before her, right? It’s so perfect!
2. Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Fifteen months ago, before Transgender Dysphoria Blues was released, we stood in the rain and watched Against Me! open their Riotfest set with “FUCKMYLIFE666.” The song (we believe) is about Laura Jane Grace’s fear that her wife would stop loving her after Grace revealed that she no longer wanted to be Tom Gabel. The emotional weight of the lyrical content was compounded by the fact that Grace’s wife watched from the side of the stage while holding their daughter. Also, we really like the trebly bass contribution from Fat Mike on the recorded version.
1. Searching for a (Rumored) Former Clarity
This is a concept album about dying from cancer, or AIDS, or possibly Herpes. Having never died, we can’t say for sure exactly what it’s like, but based entirely on what we’ve learned from onscreen deaths, you either foresee death happening far in advance and are completely at peace with it when it does happen, like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Or you don’t see it coming, and hold out, clinging to life, and tragically go out, unable to express your unrequited affection for the person you love the most, like King Kong.
Somehow Grace’s death in Clarity is both. She has a zen-like calm and acceptance of the commonality of dying when she sings, “Well everyone, you ever meet or love, be just a relationship based on a false presumption.” Yet has a panic and urgency, that you would contemplate when being brutally hunted down and murdered in cold blood, as addressed in feel good hit, “Violence Like This.” Either way, when the album ends, it leaves you with the tranquil, though utterly bumming, realization that every thought or feeling you’ve ever had, no matter how individualized it may seem, has literally happened to thousands of people before you, and like billions of people before you, you will die, which is sad, but it’s really the most normal thing in the world.
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