Review: Laura Jane Grace walks a thrilling sounding side street

Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers, "Bought to Rot" (blood recordings)

The words have just come out of Laura Jane Grace in her new album, a torrent of thoughts, observations and memories of one of the most charismatic figures in rock.

The Against Me! singer and guitarist took a break from his superb punk band to explore other glam-rock terrains with the parallel project Laura Jane Grace and Devouring Mothers.

His lyrics are hardly contained by the structure of the songs, bellowed for a moment or lengthened in a poem to be sung. One song, "Manic Depression", has 250 words, another 240 and a third 230.

"Bought to Rot" is less heavy than the previous Against Me! offers, with some songs that could easily adapt to traditional alt-rock radio. He is also less angry, more theatrical and more surreal. (Many of the songs are heard along the lines of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"). It is a dizzying album, sometimes hysterical, sometimes poignant, but always deeply personal.

It begins with the claustrophobic "China Beach", with Grace apparently shaken and confused: "Are you my enemy and we are at war?" He asks. "Are you the hunter? Am I the prey?"

Grace, whose life and career changed radically when she became a transgender in 2012, joined the new band with Against Me! drummer Atom Willard and Against Me! producer Marc Jacob Hudson on bass.

The album texts explore everything, from love gone wrong to mental illness, with a sense of uprooting everything – two songs have Grace in the hotels and one in an airplane. "Infinite distance, eternal shift", sings "Born in Black".

Windy City fans may want to lower the song n. 8, entitled "I Hate Chicago." It is a stew of imprudence and anguish towards the third city of America, with Grace complaining about everything in her hometown from food ("Learn how to make a pizza") to sportsmen ("I hate the Cubs, the Sox, the Blackhawks and the Bulls ") to its citizens (" You and all your hypocritical hipster hoods can go to hell. ") It's seething and frantic and wildly funny.

Other distinctive elements include Rem-reminiscent "Apocalypse Now (& Later)," Lou Reed-ish songs "Amsterdam Hotel Room" and "Manic Depression", and the David Bowie-adjacent "Screamy Dreamy". There is electricity in every song and an unpredictable abrasiveness throughout. You can not ask for more – if you live outside Chicago.


Mark Kennedy is at

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