To call Transgender Dysphoria Blues the album of Laura Jane Grace's life may be accurate, but it also suggests that this, Against Me!'s sixth studio record, is autobiographical, which isn't strictly true. Originally, Grace conceived the project as a concept album about a transsexual prostitute, but during the record's earliest stages, Grace revealed first to her band and then to the world at large (via a 2012 article in Rolling Stone) that she herself was a transgender woman. Once Grace went public with her transition, the dynamics of the record and the band itself shifted. Already braced to return to independent status after a stint at Sire, the group splintered during recording at the band's own Total Treble Studios; by the end of the sessions, the rhythm section had been replaced, leaving only Grace and guitarist James Bowman. It is to their considerable credit that Transgender Dysphoria Blues never sounds like the work of a band falling apart; if anything, they're reinvigorated, playing with a purpose lacking on 2010's softly unfocused White Crosses. Indeed, that drive derives from Grace's decision to transition. By design, Transgender Dysphoria Blues pushes Laura Jane Grace's story to the forefront. She and Bowman cleverly constructed the album to be musically universal and lyrically specific, easing listeners into identifying with a struggle they may otherwise deem foreign. Jettisoning any of the amorphous explorations of White Crosses, not to mention the folk-punk of their earliest records ("Two Coffins" comes the closest to folk), Against Me! favors nervy, direct rock & roll, the kind that can fill either a club or stadium -- singalongs inspired by Strummer and Springsteen and any number of their followers, populist punk that underpins songs that tell the tale of an individual experience. Perhaps the details pertain to Grace's life and perhaps they don't; ultimately it doesn't matter because Transgender Dysphoria Blues powerfully conveys the experience of transgender dysphoria: the knowing that you don't belong in the body in which you were born, the alienation that follows, the acceptance that comes with confession, and yet that move doesn’t soothe all the pain. The trick of the album is how the music -- simple, hookier than most Against Me! music -- sells the story, underscoring the universal elements of this very specific story. This is the gateway into Transgender Dysphoria Blues, but what resonates is that very individual experience: how Laura Jane Grace has turned her public acceptance of who she is into punk poetry.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine