Laura Jane Grace treated Transgender Dysphoria Blues as a coming-out party, letting every aspect of her sexuality flood out in a torrent. After such a lacerating album, where does one go? Shape Shift with Me, an album recorded with a new lineup of Against Me! that's still anchored by Grace and guitarist James Bowman, goes a long way toward addressing that question. As an album, Shape Shift with Me doesn't feel as urgent as Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It's not just that Grace unleashed all her pent-up emotions two years prior: the production is clean, even punchy, emphasizing the big pop hooks that drive so many of the tunes. At times, Against Me! can recall college rock heroes of the past -- Hüsker Dü hang heavy over the proceedings, particularly on "12:03," a coiled expression of love angst -- but whenever Grace flirts with the past she suggests a future: she's claiming an unspoken queer tradition that flows through the American underground, one that comes to the surface on this album, for her own Transgender Dysphoria Blues felt like an unrestrained howl but on Shape Shift with Me, Grace feels comfortable within her own skin, happy to not have every song on her album be a statement. Consequently, Shape Shift with Me feels considerably lighter than its predecessor: Grace is reveling in her mess, resulting in an album that is lighter, fleeter, hookier, and more fun than its predecessor.
Shape Shift with Me Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine