Known in the music industry as the lead vocalist for the alternative rock group Against Me!, Laura Jane Grace has dedicated the year to putting together a new solo record with the group The Devouring Mothers. Coming over a decade after her debut solo release, ‘Heart Burns’, it was a fitting time for Grace to put out more solo content and it does not disappoint.
Putting together an album with a more light-hearted sound – one that strays away from the usual heavy anarchic sound of Against Me! – the album consists of songs Grace wrote yet felt would not fit with the band. Opening with the two-minute number “China Beach”, she uses a mix of spoken word and unclean vocals. Accompanied with a steady drum beat and classic rock-inspired guitar strums, it is just a taste of what is to be expected in the record.
Following it is the easy-going track “Born In Black”, which is much softer compared to the opener. The tones of classic rock and punk is further made evident; with inspiration from the work of musicians such as Tom Petty, Grace captures the honesty and depth that every lyric holds. As one of the very few faces in the industry who is no-holds-barred with their political views, there is no doubt that Laura Jane Grace is someone who writes directly from the heart and the soul. This is felt through her vocals as she sings out how “we only ever wanted to go back“. There is never a barrier between her heart and her voice, and that will hopefully never change.
A special mention to the track “The Friendship Song”, which is a more upbeat and optimistic track on ‘Bought to Rot’. Opening the song with the statement of how her and the friend in question are “two and the same“, it is a brighter outlook on life momentarily for Grace and it is needed in life.
In the chorus, she sings, “You accept me for who I am / And I don’t judge you for it“, which can relate in a comedic and a serious sense. It can be taken seriously because, as a transgender woman, Grace is being oppressed and targeted in the United States from individuals who campaign avidly against trans rights. It is considered an important part of friendship in her life, as she has been more than vocal about not taking anti-trans legislation lightly (including burning her birth certificate live on stage out of retaliation against anti-trans laws). She only wishes to be associated with people who can accept her for who she truly is and respects her as a human being. However, it can be taken in a more comedic sense due to it having a possible meaning of “I’m pretty weird and you’re okay with it, and I’m okay with you being okay with it”; as she accepts she is not what can be considered a ‘normal’ person in this world and does not judge her friends for not judging her for it. That really is what friendship is, and many can agree.
For listeners looking for a more satirical song on the record, Grace has the tongue-in-cheek track “I Hate Chicago”. Name-dropping the city’s many sports teams and trash-talking the traffic in this more chilled out track, Grace puts on an act for the first minute but drops it with the lyric that changes the tone: “This is actually just another divorce song“. She continues to say that for every reason her ex – mentioned solely as “she” – likes the city, that’s a reason she does not. It is a song that so cleverly tricks the listener into thinking it is a humorous song about a state Grace has some over-the-top resentment for, until the curtain is opened and she reveals that the resentment has some depth to it.
Being a different selection of songs that most Against Me! fans would not be familiar with in recent years, it can be seen as a break from listening to one side of Laura Jane Grace and tuning in to another side. One that she has been spending time putting together and giving out to her fanbase, and possibly extend it to people who listen to the style found on ‘Bought to Rot’.
Fans of Against Me!, and music fans who have never listened to a single Against Me! track, could benefit from giving the record a spin to at least learn more about the frontwoman’s life and political stance.
‘Bought to Rot’ is out now via Bloodshot Records.