After two long years, American punk rockers Against Me! have just dropped their seventh studio album Shape Shift With Me. With their last album Transgender Dysphoria Blues pulling in widespread critical acclaim and a slew of new fans, it’s safe to say that anticipation for the band has never been higher.
But with six albums in the bank and numerous label changes and sound transformations, it’s hard to know where to start listening to the band. To help out new listeners and take old fans on a nostalgic journey, we’ve picked 9 essential cuts from their varied back catalogue.
9. ‘Don’t Lose Touch’
Between their third album Searching for a Former Clarity and their fourth, New Wave, Against Me! went through a massive change, and caused a huge rift in their fan base. They signed to their first major label, Sire Records, and took their sound in a poppier direction. They gained many new fans, but also lost a slew of old ones who branded them (perhaps unfairly) as sell-outs. However you feel about this, there’s no denying that the third album now holds a special place in their back catalogue as their last ‘classically punk’ release. ‘Don’t Lose Touch’ is the perfect track for this stage in the band’s history, still staying close to the band’s underground punk origins (think military drum beat and rowdy singalong chorus) but also showing the early stages of pop elements creeping in.
8. ‘From Her Lips To God’s Ears (The Energizer)’
This one makes the list for being insanely high energy (perhaps the band’s most energetic song?) and demonstrating the early ferocity the band were capable of.
After the pop-punk and alt-rock sounds of New Wave and White Crosses, the band’s most recent release Transgender Dysphoria Blues saw the band moving back into heavier and harsher sounds, exploring the dark side of gender dysphoria which was experienced by lead singer Laura Jane Grace, who came out as a transgender woman before this album (more on this below). Despite this, ‘FUCKMYLIFE666’ is the catchiest song on the album, balancing the band’s pop-punk attitude with their older fast instrumentations and newer deep lyrics.
6. ‘Cavalier Eternal’
A lot of the band’s early appeal comes from their diverse musical style within the punk genre, moving from heavy punk head-bangers to light, acoustic folky tracks. ‘Cavalier Eternal’ is the perfect example of the latter, and shows the band’s often forgotten affinity for acoustic instrumentations.
5. ‘Baby, I’m an Anarchist’
Speaking of acoustic, ‘Baby, I’m An Anarchist’ represents the best of both worlds, expertly blending their folkier style with their angry punk sound.
4. ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’
The band may have moved into poppier territory as their career progressed and they signed to a major label, but there’s no denying that Against Me! still maintained their earlier energy, albeit channelled in different directions. ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ brings this energy, and sees Laura confronting their critics head-on and addressing the idea of them selling out.
“I was a teenage anarchist, but the politics were too convenient.”
The song may be true pop-punk, complete with a harmonised chorus, but it’s fucking catchy.
3. ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’
Nothing else captures the early, raw intensity of Against Me! better than ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’. Before releasing their debut album Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose, the band had already established themselves as a rowdy live act best experienced in a sweaty, cramped basement. This track best takes you back to this time, with its scratchy singalong vocals, chugging guitar riffs and precise, marching drumbeat.
2. ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’
The band may lost fans and copped flak for selling out with New Wave, but they truly won everyone back with their sixth, critically acclaimed album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. As mentioned above and suggested by the title, the album takes an honest look at gender dysphoria (distress experienced as a result of the gender a person is assigned at birth) and Laura’s coming out as a transgender woman. The opening and title track ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ represents the albums best strengths and the band’s crowning glory; fast bluesy-punk precision and brutally honest, harsh lyrics.
“You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.”
1. ‘Thrash Unreal’
Sorry for going with the easy choice, but ‘Thrash Unreal’ has to top the list. If you know the song, then surely reading the title is enough to get you humming it, and if you don’t, it’ll be stuck in your head by the time the first chorus comes thundering in and bashes its way into your brain. The band may have copped criticism for abandoning their gritty beginnings in favour of a sleek pop-rock sound but there’s no denying the mastery of this song. It’s big, it’s catchy and it introduced the uninitiated across the world to Against Me!
Now get listening to the new album!