Two and a half years ago Against Me! launched back onto the international punk scene with Transgender Dysphoria Blues, an album that marked something of a change for the band in many ways. Now, following a live album chronicling the blistering shows they performed in support of that record, they are back with a new full length studio album, Shape Shift With Me.
If Transgender Dysphoria Blues was a direct response to the changes being undergone by both the band and their front woman Laura Jane Grace at the time, Shape Shift With Me builds on this in a way that takes that personally visceral approach and augments it with the hints of pop that had marked White Crosses to create something of a hybrid moving the band forward into what feels like a new era.
Provision L-3 starts the album off in with short, sharp, punk package railing against the changes in politics in the USA (and beyond) in recent years intermingled with the same issues personal to Grace that were the hallmark of the previous record grabbing you by the throat to drag you into the album.
From there it weaves it way through the personal and political, with the two intertwining as the band have always done at their best, it just seems to have an understandable new charge and poignancy.
While all still punk the record shifts stylistically throughout taking in both new and familiar sounds. Haunting, Haunted, Haunts brings the folk punk tinge that made their name to the fore while Dead Rats and Norse Truth add a darker, fuzzier vibe to proceedings and, one of two lead singles, Crash comes with an almost glam-pop vibe that is as astonishing as it is infectious.
While this makes it a stylistic mix, Shape Shift With Me flows together excellently with a general sense of a search for intimacy pervading the record which rings true with much of Grace’s media presence in recent months, but this is far from the Laura Jane Grace show as Transgender Dysphoria Blues, maybe, was. Added to this, the continued use of a more stripped back production style and striking artwork make for a complete package of an album continuing the thematic feel of the last two releases.
As a band this feels like a new version of Against Me! blasting out at full force with Inge Johansson (bass) and Atom Willard (drums) feeling as much a part of the band now as founder Grace (lead vocal and guitar) and longtime collaborator James Bowman (guitar) giving the whole thing a more cohesive feel adding to the dynamics within the songs, even though they are all the brainchild of Grace.
While not as instantly blisteringly intense as Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Shape Shift With Me moves Against Me! forward and shows they’ve not let their recent brushes with more mainstream recognition, that has come from Grace’s personal situations, effect their musical mission of being a forthright and honest punk rock band. On top of that it all comes with a pace and power that can’t help but give a real sense of positivity to it, despite some of the darker subject matter.