Review by Katy Trosch
Laura Jane Grace is a warrior. The musician, author, and activist has served as a transgender icon since publicly coming out in 2012. Her art clearly reflects this. She is the frontwoman and creative force behind the punk band Against Me!. The albums Transgender Dysphoria Blues and Shape Shift With Me were released in 2014 and 2016; both creatively illustrate Grace’s struggles throughout her transition.
In 2016, Grace released her autobiography entitled Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout documenting her life as a transgender woman. It isn’t surprising that she would want to take a break from writing about her own identity and explore her art from a different perspective. Her new side project, Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers, holds true to Grace’s personal style while varying slightly from the straightforward punk rock sounds of Against Me! and tackling issues unrelated to her trans identity.
Although Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers sports some familiar faces (including Atom Willard, the current drummer for Against Me!) the group has created a distinctly different and unique sound. The group’s debut album, Bought to Rot, explores various styles of music, achieving a self-proclaimed goal of Grace’s, the sound of a mixtape. There is no shortage of variety throughout, both in genre and in Grace’s lyrics. The album opens with “China Beach," a goth anthem completed by Grace’s powerful screamed vocals and distorted guitar riffs. The album takes playful turns with songs such as “I Hate Chicago” - a tune in which Grace proclaims her hatred for the city and all its landmarks which remind her of her ex., and “The Friendship Song”- a folk punk track that simply expresses gratitude for an accepting friend. Bought to Rot is also equipped with straightforward pop punk songs, (such as, “The Airplane Song”) which employ catchy, love-stricken choruses that you immediately want to sing along with. Grace’s endless creativity ties the whole album together as she tells different stories that, though disconnected, all remain true to herself and her own personal punk rock style.
It is evident throughout Bought to Rot that Grace wanted to experiment with her sound; something which many artists crash and burn when attempting to do. She was ultimately incredibly creative and successful. This album fits no molds and keeps you guessing with each song. This new project is both mature and angry. The rage found in each song hits home and opens up great conversations. But it isn’t just angry. It is thoughtful. It is reflective. And if I had to choose one word to describe this album it would be: eclectic. The lyrics are well-written and very specific, and even though they are so specific they also feel inclusive. It has solid instrumentation and production. Not only does it sound good, it is exploding with fearlessness. Building up to its release, I was filled with anticipation to see what Grace would throw at the world. And after listening through its entirety, I found Bought to Rot to be fun and refreshing. My respect for Laura Jane Grace has only continued to grow.