Tag Archives: Alt-Rock

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues – Album Review

against me (640x306)

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

When I was 17, I lived just outside of Jacksonville and began attending my fourth (and final) high school.  I met a cute brunette at a show, and she went to my school.  She was cooler than me, it’s true.  She kept playing this band from Gainesville in the car that I had never heard of before.  The opening song sounded like the beginning to a spaghetti western, and she knew all the words and I didn’t.  That would soon change as I fell head over heels for Against Me! and the girl.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little background information on what’s happening on this album.  Tom Gabel… I don’t know exactly how to phrase it.  Tom Gabel is not gone, but he’s also not here.  Even the band’s Wikipedia page does not list him under former members.  Let’s dig deeper.

Transgender Dysphoria is defined as a person’s discontent with the sex that they were assigned at birth, and the roles associated with that gender.  Tom Gabel suffers (suffered?) from transgender dysphoria and finally reached a breaking point where something had to give.  So, now Tom Gabel is Laura Jane Grace.  Out of what is seemingly a very complicated situation comes a relatively simplistic solution: tell the people in your life what you are feeling, and make changes accordingly.  Fortunately, Tom has the support of his family, bandmates, and I’m going to assume the majority of his fans as well.

The album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, starts off the same way that Reinventing Axl Rose  does; with a snare drum and Laura banging out chords on that beautiful Rickenbacker semi-hollow body that has inspired bouts of envy from me, time and again, over the years.  Laura’s voice remains unchanged and except for the subject matter, it’s still the same band.  The subject matter is confessional but should not ever be mistaken for an apology.  Laura jumps right into it with the opening track, which has the same name as the album.  “You want them to see you like they see every other girl. They just see a faggot.”  That about sums it up, right? We’re done here? Not quite.  Following the title track is “True Trans Soul Rebel” which is the tune that caught my attention on my drive home this evening and kicked my ass into writing this at one o’clock in the morning.  Laura knows, and always has known, how and when to tug on the heart strings to create the most effective songs and records.  This track has a melancholy feel to it (especially the verses) but when you start paying attention to the words it becomes truly heart-breaking.   “Yet to be born, you’re already dead” would sound cryptic or nonsensical taken out of context, but in the context of this record I think it’s one of the most profound statements Laura makes on the album.

Laura has always inspired quiet, introspective night drives through northeast Florida but as I rolled away from Duval county and picked up speed on the highway, “Two Coffins” punched me right in the nose with a closed fist.  I can’t tell who it is about (Laura’s wife? Her daughter, perhaps?), but that is hardly the point.  The point is that it makes sense to her and she has kindly left enough of a void in the lyrics for a person to insert themselves into the song.  It’s an acoustic song, and it drips with bittersweet longing for the person that she is singing to.  Maybe in my current state of mind I’m just not hearing the lyrics from the right angle and to someone else it would be quite obvious, but right now, tonight, the mystery of the song is part of why it’s one of my favorite tracks on this album.

Immediately following “Two Coffins” is “Paralytic States”, which upon first listen sounds like an up-tempo, feel good song.  Diving deeper into the lyrics you realize that it’s a terrifying account of someone suffering from Transgender Dysphoria, and the lengths to which a human could potentially go when they are unable, or unsure, of how to cope.  Add substance abuse to the mix and you have a really volatile, desperate, hopeless individual on your hands.  Laura said in another article that it came down to a matter of survival for her.  Just reading the lyrics sends a shiver down my spine and I am thankful that when unsatisfied with life she was strong enough to make a change, despite life and potentially relationship-changing implications.  In this instance it seems that there will be a happy ending, but I can’t help but wonder how many others there are in this world that will not arrive at the same destination.

I guess if I could take away one lesson from this album, it’s that things change.  Time changes, people change, places change.  Just like when I got back to Florida and drove down familiar roads only to realize that the people who lived in this house no longer live there, the same thing is happening to every other person in this world.  Maybe they didn’t realize it yesterday, or today, and maybe they won’t tomorrow, but it’s almost guaranteed that at least once in an individual’s life they will realize that the world is changing around them constantly.  The way that I don’t see that girl at shows anymore is the same as why I’ll never see Tom Gabel up on stage again screaming out the lyrics to “Walking Is Still Honest.”  Things change, and that’s okay.

Laura Jane Grace is here to help us keep the music playing.  Transgender Dysphoria Blues is one of the most affecting records I’ve ever heard in my life, and I only covered a handful of the ten tracks.  If you want to hear about, and feel, some really life changing, in your face, gritty stuff happening in someone’s life, please listen.  If you don’t want to feel what another person is feeling why do you listen to music in the first place?

Broken Birdie

Editor: If you enjoy rock music, do us a favor and Like Us and Follow Us in our efforts to spread the gospel of rock across the great state of Florida (and beyond)…

Fitz and the Tantrums Album Review


Fitz and The Tantrums
Fitz and The Tantrums

Fitz and the Tantrums More Than Just a Dream Album Review

Over the past five years, this sextet out of Los Angeles has carved a nice fan following in the United States based on their fun pop rock and famously energetic live shows.  On the just-released More Than Just a Dream, they build on that success and cement their reputation as rising stars on the American music landscape.

The band is the vision of Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, who shares co-lead vocals with the talented female lead Noelle Scaggs.  The-six piece band is quite diverse, boasting copious amounts of brass, synthesizer, hand claps and percussion in their creative mix.  It’s an eclectic, honest mix of music that’s just a blast to listen to.

The songs throughout the album are hard to categorize, as we see the band weave nicely between a few different genres.  It’s all pop rock but at various times we hear influences of  soul, disco and alt-rock. The album opener “Out of My League” is a bit of the latter, and it’s an addictive catchy tune. It already gets plenty of play on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation and is destined to become the band’s biggest hit to date.

More Than Just a Dream, their Elektra Records debut, is a fitting successor to their rambunctious 201o breakthrough  Pickin’ Up the Pieces. Fitz is still true to his musical roots and the band continues to evolve nicely. The music is captivating and the album is jammed with catchy singalong numbers; perfectly suited for the arena tour they are about to embark on with Bruno Mars.  The hard-working road warriors are famous for their energy-filled live sets, and actually do a good job capturing that charisma on these dozen tracks.

“The Walker” is a tremendous offering.  At first glance it’s a happy, bouncy journey, but the lyrics belie a dark tale of obsession.  We also find a few tracks highlighting Fitz’s struggles with matters of the heart including the appropriately titled “The End.”  “Break the Walls” is a guaranteed fan favorite; the fantastically produced song features the best vocals on the album and beautifully spotlights Scaggs’ voice.

Check out the link below and give it a listen, and let us know what you think of the band’s imaginative new album..

Rock On!
Cretin



Sanford Gets a Nice Dose of Rehab


Georgia based Alt-Rockers, Rehab brought their entertaining act to Sanford this week with an energetic set at West End Trading Company.  The quintet out of Georgia offered up a unique entertaining cross between rock, country and hip-hop.  For those of you not familiar with the band, think Beastie Boys meet Sister Hazel; yup, a crazy combination, but these guys make it work.

DJ Chris Crisis kicked the set off with a quick and lively set that got the crowd amped up.  He remained on stage and supplied the band’s bass through his mixes. The band revolves around the vocals of front men Danny Alexander and Demun Jones, who effortlessly switched off between driving hip-hop and harmonious melodies.

The set spanned their entire career and was a great mix from their album releases.  “Hey Fred” was an early crowd favorite that got the crowd bouncing and singing along.  We also got to hear nice versions of “We Live,” “Walk Away,” and my personal favorite “Lawn Chair High” from their excellent 2008 release Graffiti World.

I’m typically not a hip-hop fan, but enjoyed the way the band deftly wove it in with a solid rock foundation.  The only downside to me was that as we listened to the tunes and the driving bass backbone, there was no bass player to be found, instead all of the bass came from the DJ. The mix was still great, and sounded excellent in the venue, but I would’ve preferred a bass player contributing to the sound.

They wrapped up their seventy-five minute set with a rollicking version of  “Kung Pao Chicken,” and then closed with the crowd favorite “Hey Bartender / Sittin At A Bar,” bringing the raucous crowd to a feverish pitch to close the night.  It was a nice way to wrap up a fun set at a cool local venue. It was my first trip to West End Trading Company, and I left impressed (look for our review of the venue soon).

Chill Flow, a local five-piece band did a great job opening for Rehab.  The Central Florida band obviously brought along some of their own passionate fans and played a nice set of ska influenced rock, with a cool beach vibe.

Rock On!
Cretin