Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Shape Shift With Me
Written by: PP on 12/11/2016 13:14:43
The news value of Laura Jane Grace coming out as a transgender may have passed long ago, but the topic is still of utmost relevance to the Against Me! vocalist. Their seventh studio album "Shape Shift With Me" deals almost exclusively with her experiences with relationships after her gender transformation. It's a brutal album lyrically, exposing bare the difficulties in breaking norms and expectations as a transgender personality, which results in a couple of piercing lines that stick to mind long after you're done listening to the record.
Stylistically, the record balances evenly between material resembling their mainstream breakthrough "New Wave" and their punk rock past. Opener "Provision L-3", for instance, is a shouty, even surprisingly aggressive opener for the modern incarnation of the band, and "Norse Truth" is likewise a throwback to their original anarcho-folk-punk days, albeit without the folk element. That said, folk undertones are still strongly present. "12:03" has an excellent rhythmic, folksy vocal delivery, which makes it one of the highlights on the album, precisely because it mixes their mainstream material together with the folk-punk oriented background. In comparison, a track like "Boyfriend" comes across as straight up pop rock despite Laura Jane Grace's rougher vocals. It's catchy alright, but a little too simplistic for my liking. The same thing with "Dead Rats".
Most songs fall in between these two extremes. Upbeat "Crash" is groovy and danceable, and "Haunting, Haunted, Haunts" is rowdy and draws in equal measure from punk and folk. There are a few exceptions, such as "Delicate, Petite & Other Things I'll Never Be", an experimental track that contains a yearning call for "I wanna know how the young stay young..." that should resonate with most of Against Me!'s older fans. But the as a rule of thumb, semi-radio friendly alternative rock / punk rock anthems is what this record is all about.
Is it any good then? Much like the past few Against Me! albums from "New Wave" onwards, it is solid. Production is a little rougher, and there are fewer truly mainstream radio single types on the record. But just like the preceding records, it's missing the riotous vibe that made "As The Eternal Cowboy" into such a brilliant release, and the quiet/loud folk/soul dynamic that made "Searching For A Former Clarity" their career masterpiece. In comparison, "Shape Shift With Me" is a typical modern Against Me! release: a bunch of good songs delivered with just enough punk rock flavor to keep us older fans on board, but few true highlights we'll be reminiscing with nostalgia in the same way as "Miami" or "Violence".
Download: 12:03; 333; Haunting, Haunted, Haunts; Rebecca
For the fans of: Fake Problems, Direct Hit!, The Holy Mess, Cobra Skulls
Release date 16.09.2016
Total Treble Music