There are certain types of music that require belief. This belief doesn’t have to be based on any kind of reality, it can be pure artifice or aesthetic, but for the music to function (to engage with and elevate the inherent content above its formulaic constructs) the rage, the frustration, the angst and the despair have to feel like the unequivocal truth.
Punk and post-hardcore can so easily feel hollow. Depraved howls echo and sweaty bodies are recklessly thrown as much out of routine as any nihilistic, self-destructive impulse. When an entire genre represents ritualised repetition it becomes impossible to invest and hard to care. After all, there is little worse than the illusion of urgency and feigned anger.
The second you hear Transgender Dysphoria Blues you intrinsically believe. The anxiety Laura Jane Grace experiences prior to, during and after her transition is undeniable. To hear her fears past and present channelled into rage, retrospection and, in-between the cracks, hope, is truly inspiring.
"Inspiring" not in a soporific, patronising fashion, but in a more literal sense. These songs inspire action, a desire for change and a will to reshape our society for the better. A great-unarticulated recess of hitherto repressed ache, resentment and confusion is being screamed aloud and it is exhilarating.
That is what great music descended from Punk can do: it forces the listener to confront the status quo and stare oppression and ache unflinchingly in the face. It can make a generation want to smash a Procol Harum record to pieces or to simply scream, shout and kick out in a common direction.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is loaded with buoyant, bristling, craftily composed pop music, but it triumphs in spite of its slick brilliance. TDS is instinctual, not because a glorious drum beat or a killer riff signifies that it’s time to bounce and shout, but because Laura Jane Grace’s lyrics make you want to roar along in solidarity and disgust - that sensation is rare and is to be cherished.
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