Against Me!: Shape Shift with Me

Kate Young
14th Sep 2016

In 2012, very publicly in Rolling Stone, Laura Jane Grace introduced herself to the world. In coming out as transgender, Grace, the lead singer of punk rock band Against Me! who is known for her throat-shredding growl, travelled a very dark rocky path to arrive at the destination called “me”. Along the way there were personal struggles - transitioning, the break down of her marriage, the band was dropped by its major label, and Grace was thrown into the newfound role of being spokesperson for a community that she was only discovering herself.

The band's 6th studio album Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014) was one of the most intimate and bare records in alternative music history, adding a more personal slant to the band's history of songs about political injustice, dismantling the system and generally just going ape shit on stage, tearing things up. The band's new album Shape Shift with Me is Against Me!’s first album since Grace’s transition and sees the singer as she heads into the next phase of her life. Grace presents herself to fans as an open book, and allows herself to be vulnerable. For much of Shape Shift with Me, she wears her heart on her sleeve as she sings about love, trust and sex. It’s furious, tender, spontaneous, erotic and liberating.

First up is “ProVision L-3,” It’s a frantic explosion of raw vocals, short sharp guitar riffs and hard thumping drum rolls that takes its name from a popular model of airport-security body scanner. Reflecting on personal thoughts dealing with national security, privacy, and suspicious minds, the song comes to its climax as Grace embarks on her own interrogation with anxiety-laden protests “what can you see inside of me”? 

On12.03 is a danceable pop punk tune detailing the struggles of trying to move on while still being tied down to the memory of an ex-lover. The singer admits that she is trying to regain her own independence “but if I’ve got a leg to stand on/then I can work myself up into a run.” 

Though relatively consistent through out the record, there are two defining tracks that stand out from the rest. "Delicate, Petite & Other Things I'll Never Be" takes it down a notch, the guitar is set on phaser and its almost like a dreamscape. It’s a heartbreaking confession made by Grace as she grapples with the struggles of transitioning and trying to fit the mold of what it means to be a “woman” in the eyes of society. “I wanna be more real than all the others / I wanna be more real than all the rest / I wanna be so real you cant see the difference”. It’s a stand-up demand for the truth - a "so what the fuck do you think of me now that I’ve bared all?"

"Norse Truth" is the flip side of the record, and it’s also the album's emotional centre. Its s a swell of energy, a raging storm that’s leaving no survivors in its aftermath. It’s the heaviest track by far with its churning bass, pounding drum beat and sawing guitar. Top that with Grace's pointed finger and you’ll be backed into a corner with a face full of sound. "If you're looking for revenge, well, here's a fucking pound of flesh / Just because I can intellectualise it doesn't mean I feel it in my chest / just because I can taste it / doesn’t mean I sink my teeth in.”

Punk rock has always been a way to fight back, and Grace is doing it through her music. One may not identify with the feelings of gender dysphoria but isolation, alienation, depression and just struggling to fit in the world are very universal feelings and fears. Laura Jane Grace may have spent a lifetime feeling like the world is against her, I hope she knows that we are with her every step of the way.

Shape Shift with Me is out on CD, vinyl and digital formats on Friday September 16th.