It’s impossible to talk about Transgender Dysphoria Blues sans context — namely that it’s Against Me!’s first album since Laura Jane Grace once Tom Gabel came out. As such it’s simultaneously the band’s most adventurous and earnest effort to date though with its experimentation and honesty comes a requisite amount of awkwardness. Despite its emotional rawness and the LP’s uneven moments — it isn’t quite the life affirmation many expected — Dysphoria is the best record of Against Me!’s major-label career.
But it is of course still Against Me! Sonically the LP’s eponymous opener could be a companion to “Walking is Still Honest” — that is until Grace hits listeners with the self-conscious earnestness that becomes the album’s hallmark. (“You want them to see you just like any other girl” she belts. “They just see a faggot.”) Grace’s nervy introspection continues throughout the album’s excellent first quarter up until “Drinking With the Jocks.” It’s here that Grace’s pent-up anger explodes: “There will always be a difference between me and you” she screams. It’s the album’s highest point — confrontational striking and awkward it’s Grace’s statement that she’s left her past behind.
At this point though it’s almost as if Grace becomes a little too self-conscious — in particular the album’s efforts at sonic diversification fall flat (“Two Coffins” and “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” are awful with the latter sounding like a B-side from Tom Morello’s iffy Night Watchman project). But amidst these low points the band also finds its comfort zone. “Fuckmylife666” and “Paralytic States” are among the LP’s subtlest tracks pairing Against Me!’s pop-punk comfort zone with Grace’s struggle to match her body with her mind. They’re neither the album’s most moving or memorable tracks — it’s undoubtedly defined by its first four tracks — but they’re a sign that the band like Grace is readying themselves for something better.