Against the Against Me! Grain
Laura Jane Grace is easily one of the most iconic frontwomen in modern punk. One of the trends you see in the modern punk atmosphere is the idea of the lead singer’s side project. Artists like Dan “Soupy” Campbell, Greg Graffin and more recently Justin Pierre have used their notoriety in their main groups to create their passion project that tends to vary sonically from their most notable content. Grace has done the same here with her side project from Against Me! The Devouring Mothers formed in 2016, and now they have released their first album Bought To Rot off of Bloodshot Records.
“China Beach” is a great opener that sets up the album perfectly. It is confrontational in its lyrical content, yet makes the listener uncomfortable like the Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer.” The unsettling feeling this song gives off is through the verses that have this marching guitar pattern. It feels as if this actually is supposed to be a nod at “Psycho Killer” with lyrics like “psychotic need, psychotic feed, psychotic shakes, psychotic break.”
“The Airplane Song” laments a hidden relationship through the metaphor of a flight. The character in the track is stood up on this airplane before their affair can even begin. It’s a cute and catchy track that climaxes with the last minute where Grace questions the not so significant other’s love.
Overall this previously mentioned track and Bought to Rot as a whole seems to have a sense of humor to it, more so than most Against Me! tracks. “Reality Bites” talks about someone with a stutter and how although Grace doesn’t have the patience for it, it turns her on, she claims. Or on “I Hate Chicago” where Grace simply rips the Windy City to shreds. “I couldn’t give a shit about the [Smashing] Pumpkins, Slint or Wilco / Learn to make a pizza you fucking jack-offs,” she howls over minor chords. It makes sense that Bought to Rot is written under this spirit. It’s almost a back to roots style album for Grace, who ever since Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues has been the genres main spokesperson for trans rights and has always written with political undertones. Bought to Rot allows Laura Jane Grace a chance to feel less of that community leader pressure. She writes the simple love songs with humorous undertones that she was probably writing at a young age, without a worry in the world. And who are we to challenge this? She deserves this.
The whole album isn’t like this though. “Manic Depression” almost feels like a melancholy blues song where Grace talks about how she reacts to her depressive tendencies, either by smoking weed, cursing off others she hates or drinking, the Against Me! way. And of course, we have the closer, “The Apology Song.” This track is one of the slower ones on the record and it really flips the script into a more sorry Grace. She acknowledges past mistakes in how she treated other people and encourages those she has wronged to pursue whatever they damn well please. It is a calming and cool conclusion to Bought to Rot. Overall, the record shows the versatility of Laura Jane Grace as a songwriter and even highlights some attitudes that have been missing from Against Me! records. Any die-hard fan will love this and maybe the ones who aren’t too aware of Grace’s work should give this a shot as well.