Gather around the tire fire children and I will tell you a story about an angry punk act known as Against Me!
A Punk band that did their job quite well at not conforming, at a time where My Chemical Romance and Green Day were too busy being the mainstream darlings and fighting the Daily Mail for angry teenagers across the land while still proclaiming, they were doing it for the outcasts, despite selling out football stadiums – that’s a lot of angry teenagers fighting against their parents over eating their broccoli!
Anyway while all that was happening, Against Me! were being hailed as champions of the underground. Their albums we’re garnering praise critically and commercially and they are still chugging along quite nicely, filling out any venue they wish to play.
Then in 2012 singer Thomas Gabel was one of the first rock musicians to come out as transgender and changed their name to Laura Jane Grace; the Rock community for the most part accepted the news with open arms. Sure there were a few troglodytes trying to ruin the good vibes, but they were swiftly ignored.
Against Me! still released albums, but Laura Jane Grace wanted to flex her songwriting prowess so she set up a brand new side project, Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers and pushed out their début ‘Bought To Rot‘, an album with a peculiar charm, but thoroughly enjoyable all the same.
Right off the bat The Devouring Mothers are a different breed of band compared to LJG’s angrier punk contemporaries. It’s a more laid back album for starters, but still has that cold smack of punk sarcasm and cynicism that makes this bitter rock critic grin from ear to ear. The overall sound could very well be best described as if The Dropkick Murphys and Queens Of The Stone Age’s early Stoner Rock sound had a baby, with a little Placebo peppered in.
Opening track ‘China Beach’ is a surreal nauseous number that sets the rest of the albums pace nicely and doesn’t out stay its welcome at 2 minutes long and is the heaviest rack on this album. The album then goes on to tease its listener with songs that could have easily been given a sped up punk tempo, but it doesn’t and that’s not a bad thing.
What it lacks for in fury punk rock gusto, it does let you study it’s pessimistic and humorous lyrics more, with one of my personal highlights coming from the song ‘I Hate Chicago’ a bitter but love hate song about the city that apparently can’t make pizza, it had me cackling like an immature school boy and had me putting that song on repeat.
The rest of the album tackles a wide variety of topics that’s not afraid to show itself off with creative flair and songwriting, ‘Reality Bites’ is a song of appreciation and admiration of someone for who they are, right down to the lazy eye and stutter, whereas ‘Manic Depression’ is a honest look in the mirror, noting her luck and privilege of being on the platform she is on but still can’t shake the dark thoughts surrounding her.
Think of LJG as that bitter acoustic singer you see in most pubs on a open mic night, fifty years old, reeks of ale and sometimes the songs they sing are bleak, but you can’t help but have a smirk on your face when they start singing about their divorce and how the other half ran off with a painter or secretary. All it was missing was the obligatory Jonny Cash cover and/or Wonderwall – thank Christ that song didn’t get involved!
That’s the vibe I got when listening to ‘Bought To Rot’ some of the lyrics are a little surreal and don’t hit the right vibes for me personally, but as a whole I did enjoy the album after a few listens. If Laura Jane Grace’s goal for this album was to show herself off as song-writing powerhouse, then she has done that superbly, some Against Me! Die-hards may find the music a little chilled out for their liking, but can not deny that ‘Bought To Rot’ still packs an assorted biscuit tin of witty writing and thought provoking lyrics.