For the past fifteen years Against Me! has been known for releasing unforgiving and relentless political punk. Most of their releases have been concentrated on pushing more open minded ideas and human rights. In 2014 they released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which saw a shift in perspective, focusing on Laura Jane Grace’s transition and settling into her newly found female form. This personal approach continues on latest album Shape Shift with Me, dealing primarily with romance and other matters of the heart. Transgender Dysphoria Blues was Laura’s struggle to become a woman, while Shape Shift With Me sees her take the next step into the world; discovering and exploring her sexuality.
The album is a realistic look at love, trying to figure out who you are while trying to get to know someone. Grace’s storyteller like approach to songwriting has never sounded more mature as she flies through themes of sexuality and romance as an adult in a newly discovered body, picking some brilliantly inspired metaphors along the way. ‘Suicide Bomber’, for example, marries up Against Me’s sociopolitical backbone with Grace’s exploration of sexuality; “I’m clinging tight to your chest / Explode me like a suicide bomber”.
But this isn’t just an album about Grace, it’s about fighting stereotypes and sticking up for the marginalised. ‘Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be’ is a track that is bold in fighting the stereotypes of females; “The finest attributes of an amputee / Something to eat instead of what you need to be”, a line that’s far from a subtle middle finger to the industries that force women to stop eating in order to look more beautiful and appealing. The song title alone is a forceful look in the mirror for Laura, and those who battle image issues and “what it means to be a male or female”. The ideas of sexuality and having crushes on people are all relatable, and Grace shows that no matter your gender, we all struggle and fight a similar battle; “I don’t want to stand here next to you / And pretend there’s something I don’t want to do / When I just want to grab you by the skull / Rebecca, kiss me, but let’s not fall in love” a line which allows us to remember those moments in which commitment seems like a difficult idea to grasp. “You treat me like your boyfriend, some dumb fucking boyfriend,” Grace yells on the aptly titled ‘Boyfriend’, reminding us that she now has the perspective from both sides and won’t put up with any kind of disrespect.
Shape Shift With Me is yet another example of how Against Me! continue to mature while never neglecting that punk sensibility. Even after fifteen plus years they have the ability to stay relevant, exciting and progressive. Although the sound of the band is very much as it was, the central themes and messages continue to push boundaries.
Shape Shift With Me is out now via Xtra Mile.