AGAINST ME! – Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble): If Transgender Dysphoria Blues was a transition album for frontwoman Laura Jane Grace in more ways than one, Shape Shift With Me is trying to settle back into “normal,” whatever that might mean. The Florida quartet starts on a flagrantly political note: “Provision L-3” functions doubly as an attack on the TSA’s privacy-invading body scanner detection of “threats” and a not-so-subtle metaphor for the outdated binary method of identifying male and female solely by one’s junk. And that’s the peak of the album’s deliberately political punk fury. These are songs of love and anguish and fucking and sucking and trying to navigate a world as a woman who’s spent her life as a man with none of the real-world experience of the identity she’s transitioned into. So as she charts this brave new world, she asks you to shape shift, too.
The best of the rest demonstrates Grace’s punchy pop chops have reached equilibrium with the band’s default rageaholism. Seriously, I count five songs here that are carried by soaring choruses and new-wavey sensibilities if not softness, and every one of them a hit: “12:03” about the anxiety of waiting for a phone call. “Boyfriend” about the death of the word in Grace’s life from now on. “Crash” about trying to hang around a love you know’s gonna let you fall out of orbit. “333” about life being meaningful when shared with someone else. And last but not least, the hyper-manic “Rebecca,” whose chorus needs no explanation: “I don’t wanna stand here next to you / And pretend there’s something I don’t wanna do / When I just wanna grab you by the skull / Rebecca, kiss me, but let’s not fall in love.” ‘Nuff said. B PLUS (***)