Monday, February 17, 2014


SATURN now has a cover and a release date:

The book will be first available at AWP 2014 in Seattle (Feb 26 - March 1), and then from the Spork website shortly thereafter.

If you're in Seattle, stop by table R3 to get one, and meet the team responsible.

Anything at all SATURN-related, let me know.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Almost two weeks ago, Against Me! released their latest album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues (their first full-length since 2010), and since then, I've probably listened to it all the way through 45 times. It's one of those albums that seems both utterly personal - in the sense that it feels like a direct summation of Laura Jane Grace's transgender experience, a lifelong struggle finally heaved out into the open - and politically broad, like all the best punk albums. It's furious, aggressive, righteous, haunted, paranoid, desperately self-aware, and, I think, totally relevant. These are the first lines of the album, from the titular opener:
"Your tells are so obvious
shoulders too broad for a girl
keeps you reminded
helps you to remember where you come from."
Right off the bat, you know this is gonna hurt.

(I saw an interview with Laura Jane Grace where the interviewer cheerfully said to her, "Well, this must be a very happy time for you!" essentially because she'd come out as transgender and public response from fans/etc. had been mostly supportive. She said, "I'm a wreck.")

Possibly my favorite track on the album (at this moment) is "Paralytic States." It carries several of my favorite moments on the album, including:
"She spent the last years of her life
running from the boy she used to be
cut her face wide open
shaved the bone down thin
plumped her lips up exaggerated
a fucked up kind of feminine"
I really don't think you can find lyrics like that anywhere else.

I've always wished I could sing like Laura Jane Grace. She can do the best throaty roar. (And has anyone ever called out James Bowman for his backing vocals? It's such a thrilling pairing; he needs more public praise.) One track on the album, "Drinking with the Jocks," has inched slowly towards the top of my list - it's got the hardcore roar, and at first it seems kind of satirical but ends on a really chilling note, with the repeated shout of "THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ME AND YOU" (thanks James!).

This bleeds right into "Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ," which works perfectly. (And I also feel compelled to point out that the latter song, after the bridge of "What's the best that you can hope for?..." etc. has literally THE most effective set of "na na na na"'s I've ever heard in a song - like, both echoing the chorus and slightly mocking; it's just terrific, go listen to it and you'll see what I mean.)

The cover art for Transgender Dysphoria Blues - by Steak Mtn, once again, who I'd argue was just about the greatest aesthetic decision for this band ever - is absolutely brilliant (and hardly mentioned in things that I've read! for shame!) - it not only speaks to the album's unapologetic honesty about the body, but also serves as a really, really good metaphor - basically, when it's all cut down, we have the same meaty insides. We're just cross-sections of other bodies. Also, Against Me! has the best typefaces ever.

If you buy the physical CD, the artwork is hilariously censored with a sticker on the plastic wrap, which, too, I think makes an awfully powerful point about what we will and won't accept:

That is - you can't have the nipple, but you can have the bloody meat underneath.

I saw Laura Jane Grace perform at the Bowery Ballroom in August 2013, where she performed most of Transgender Dysphoria Blues (which had either just been recorded or was in the midst of being recorded); at that point, I'd only heard the two songs from the EP True Trans, "True Trans Soul Rebel" and "FuckMyLife666," so most of the material was unfamiliar to me, but one of the most striking aspects of the show was how the crowd knew every bit of the new stuff as well as they did the old stuff, such that you knew these songs had been traveling, had been beating on someone's chest for a long time, as a prerecorded experience of their own, something that I - as a generally solitary, album-based music-listener and infrequent show-goer - was not used to. It made me think about COMMUNITY and all of those implications, etc, how it's built up, but also intimidated me a little - namely, the community that exists in Real Actual Space with other people vs. the community that exists By Yourself, In Your Head.

Which, I guess, is just another way of saying how important it is that this particular album now exists - here it's taking a set of issues that are very ultimately Yourself and relating them with total, unfiltered, necessary vigor and honesty. Which, in the end, is basically what music is about, isn't it?



I have a new story called "Our Bodies" in the latest issue of Weave Magazine. It's really a very snazzy journal with some very snazzy writing inside (my story is not overtly 'snazzy,' just painful), and it's print, which means you can stroke it.

And! My David Bowie book, SATURN, comes out later this month. I don't know what to do with myself until then (besides writing very long blog posts about Against Me!) - I'm too excited (I've said this already). This, I think, will never stop being the case.

As always, thanks for reading all the way down to here,