Laura Jane Grace

Stay Alive

Written by: PP on 26/01/2021 10:48:13

For me, Against Me! peaked on their neo-troubadour styled folk-punk record "Searching For A Former Clarity", which saw them tone down the screams and anarchy-laden chaos of "Reinventing Axl Rose" and "As The Eternal Cowboy" and enhance the songwriting aspect of their music without losing the punk undertones in the process. Sure, they've written a bunch of great albums since then, but the additional production value makes for an entirely different soundscape due to its polish and determination compared to the singer-songwriter style we saw on songs like "Holy Shit" and "Violence". This is where Laura Jane Grace's solo project comes in the picture on her post-Tom Gabel debut as a singer-songwriter.

"Stay Alive" is namely a record that best compares to "Searching..." era Against Me!. It consists primarily of acoustic folk songs, which allow Laura's raw, throaty voice to really come to its own, much like Chuck Ragan did on "Gold Country". The quieter instrumental landscape gives the vocals more room and focus, which is not always a good thing as we've seen on multiple solo efforts by punk vocalists, but here it has the opposite effect. Laura displays both anger and somberness; passionate shouting and casual, Nick Cave-inspired troubadourism in equal measure. Songs like "Old Friend (Stay Alive)" are heartfelt and nakedly honest, whereas "The Calendar Song" is quiet and contemplative.

The space given by leaving most of the instrumentation to be just an acoustic guitar allows us to focus on just how great her pipes are. This is true for both the louder and punk-laden 'full band' tracks like "So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Fuck Off" or "Please Leave", but equally so for the minimalistic songs on the record. It has the same delightful effect as Frank Turner's first couple of albums before he introduced the full band: it's someone shredding away on acoustic guitar in high-energy fashion, making it sound like a punk rock record without necessarily having to include any distortion or high tempo, but where fiery vocals and delivery are at focus.

It's tempting to call "Stay Alive" the best thing come out of Against Me! camp since at least "White Crosses", but arguably even further back if you've not been a fan of the more mainstream material the band has written since "New Wave".

8

Download: Old Friend (Stay Alive); The Swimming Pool Song; So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Fuck Off; Hanging Tree; Please Leave
For the fans of: Against Me!, Dave Hause, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Fake Problems, (old) Frank Turner
Listen: Facebook

Release date 01.10.2020
Polyvinyl

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