Fronting anarchic punk band Against Me! brought Laura Jane Grace to prominence across their seven studio albums of fierce, ‘for real’ punk rock released from 2002 through 2016. Her gender dysphoria has shaped her more recent years and Laura Jane is the first major punk figure to identify as transgender. But more than that she is a spokeswoman for those afraid to take that step and those that are bullied for simply being who they are. For me Laura Jane Grace is a heroine and a champion for the 21st Century by standing up against the prejudice and hate of this, at times, vile world. She has stepped aside from Against Me! for this release as Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers. ‘Bought To Rot’ is softer than much of the Against Me! material. But no less opinionated than some of that bands finest cuts. This record draws influence from Tom Petty’s ‘Full Moon Fever’ which was the first album that Laura Jane ever bought. Overlaid on that is a strong vein of post punk and late 70s new wave. “Apocalypse Now (& Later)” has a really crisp band sound reminiscent of Elvis Costello and the Attractions at their vitriolic peak.
At times Laura Jane’s lyrics are unflinchingly hard and truthful and need to be heard. She is aided and abetted in this venture by ace Against Me! drummer Atom Willard and long time Against Me! producer Marc Jacob Hudson making up a veritable tour de force of a rhythm section. Grace has her eloquent say on friendship in “The Friendship Song” and essentially it is very much about acceptance and not being judgemental. Her pure hatred of her adopted home city of Chicago is tangible and palpable on “I Hate Chicago”. This is possibly one of the most visceral and scathing put downs of a city ever put down in a song. It is that dark power which makes me love it so much. I get the sense that “Valeria Golina” is a skin shredding take down of a failed relationship. The album closes on an almost positive note with the jangly and compact ode to letting go and maybe being forgiving of both past and future fuck ups, “The Apology Song”. My favourite song in this rather excellent fourteen track collection is the opening tune “China Beach”. In many ways it sets out Grace’s manifesto with lines like ““Learn to trust yourself, no one else matters / Respect the source and always welcome failure”. ‘Bought To Rot’ hits the streets on 9th November via Bloodshot Records. You need to get this album by any means necessary, you will not be disappointed!