Style And Substance

TDB pairs great tunes with a great topic

by James Brotheridge

againstme

cd-againstmeAgainst Me!
Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Total Trebel
4 out of 5

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, the eponymous title track from the new Against Me! album, starts with a shuffling drum beat swiftly followed by a fun guitar riff. The effect is something along the lines of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz”.

It’s an unexpected mood for a song and album where the band’s lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, dives into her experiences as a transgendered woman.

More on that in a bit.

Against Me! has never been a vehicle for sonic innovation. The Gainesville, Florida punk  band, as always, makes songs that deliver essential rock pleasures. They’re punk enough to play the Warped Tour with pop-punkers and the like but they also have a roots-rock spirit that lets them claim the Boss as an influence (in much the same way a band such as, say, The Gaslight Anthem can). The guitars lead up front, the songs are driving and the result is that much of Transgender is pure heartland music suitable for continuous fist pumping.

It doesn’t always hit dead on. “Two Coffins” meanders a bit, and the proto-stoner-rocker “Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” is flat and not nearly as interesting as its title. But beyond that, Against Me! sticks to its strengths and the record benefits.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues earns more love for its subject matter. Grace, born Tom Gabel, announced that she’s transgender in a 2012 Rolling Stone feature, and Transgender dives into the implications of this change in her life. It pops up throughout the album time and time again, with Grace talking about her experience truthfully and, above all, plainly, with little poetry attached. In her hands, the subject doesn’t need embellishment and there’s no reason to address it in metaphor. It’s fucking great.

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cd-packadThe Pack A.D.
Do Not Engage
Nettwerk
3.5 out of 5

As Prairie Dog readers darn well better know by this point, The Pack A.D. are a Vancouver-based guitar and drums team that plays rockin’, sockin’ garage tunes that sometimes lean bluesy and sometimes tilt pop. There’s more pop on their fifth full-length, Do Not Engage the Pack’s second album helmed by White Stripes producer Jim Diamond. I like this partnership. Becky Black (guitar, vocals) and Maya Miller (drums) sound great with the harmonies and multiple guitar tracks. It’ll be interesting to see how the pair pulls this bigger sound off live — will they use hirelings? I’m rooting for hirelings.

Stand-out tracks for me after about a dozen listens are “Battering Ram”, “Airborne”, “Big Shot” and “Rocket”. The whole album’s good, though.

Pretty sure The Pack A.D. have a sound all Saskatchewan could agree on. Eff Vancouver. We should adopt these guys. /Stephen Whitworth

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cd-hospitalityHospitality
Trouble
Merge
3 out of 5

Not much has changed for Hospitality. They’re still on Merge, home to Superchunk, Spoon and many other fine rock acts, and their sophomore album Trouble doesn’t stray much from their first record. Trouble is a bit generic, its bass lines and synths ripped right from the ’00s post-punk revival. That’s not to say that the sheer pep of songs like “I Miss Your Bones” isn’t appealing to some degree. But the album’s strongest offerings are the relative departures, from the subdued “Inauguration” to the swoon-worthy “It’s Not Serious”, which recall no-wavers Suicide and Canadian grunge act Jale respectively. And as with Hospitality’s first album, each track is buoyed by Amber Papini’s vocals, bold but smooth. Trouble may not have a ton of character to it, and definitely a little less than the debut, but mostly it works. /Mason Pitzel

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cd-theeThee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
Constellation
2 out of 5

In the same spirit as much of experimental Montreal label Constellation’s roster, Thee Silver make protest music light years away from traditional folk songs of yore. Their eighth and politely titled album (ahem) is a guitar-driven, sprawling take on the social unrest stirring in Montreal for the last few years. As expected for a group featuring members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the songs are epic anthems, three exceeding the 10-minute mark, harnessing moods and jamming out at length. The talent of this group of multi-instrumentalists is clear, though the musical ideas at the heart of each song don’t warrant such elaborate exploration. For their length, they rarely build to anything noteworthy. In this case, the patina of grandeur detracts from the ardent soul of the project. /Amber Goodwyn

2014-01-23