by M.V. Essick –
“Let’s F*** Shit up!” Laura Jane Grace screams in the microphone full of moxie in the first song. That opening line sums up the spirit behind Against Me’s 23 Live Sex Acts.
Nostalgia has been the lead money-maker as of late. It has brought back movies through reboots and has resurrected cancelled TV shows via Netflix. When I found out Against Me! had put out another album—I was skeptical. It’s easy to get sucked in and feel warm and fuzzy because it’s simply familiar. I admit, I haven’t really listened to them much since I graduated high school, but it’s been hard not to ignore the band’s antics over the past decade. This is mostly (and sadly) thanks to the media’s fascination with the band’s lead singer Laura Jane Grace’s gender transition.
It is shameful she isn’t lauded as the hero that she deserves to be. After giving the album a proper listen, it’s clear to see Laura Jane Grace is the only reason why 23 Live Sex Acts is worth remembering and not to be stashed in the back of some punk fanboy’s closet.
As a live album, I did not care that Jane’s voice sounded crystal clear on a technical level. As a transgender person, I cared more about hearing another human scream about her own gender dysphoria and about her living in world where everyone hates you. It was actually pretty damn cathartic. I got misty eyed during “Gender Dysphoria Blues” where Jane artfully and passionately roared about a trans girl trying to find her place in the world.
The album isn’t all seriousness and glum fan fair, thankfully. Other songs featured in the album are hits such as “New Wave”, “Black Me Out”. There’s even a good mix of their older songs such as “Don’t loose touch” and “Sink Florida Sink” which brought me back to memories of singing in the school hallways with my friends during lunch hour.
23 Live Sex Acts offers a nice comprehensive discography of Against Me! wrapped up in a nice live album, suitable for any fan. However, the thing that make this album marketable is why I fear people will buy into the album for the wrong reasons…
Punk, not only as a music genre but most importantly as a movement, has and will always be anti-establishment. Instead of caving into nostalgia completely and giving us feel-good music, Laura Jane Grace sings about the harsh realities of her life and about the lives of others. We live in world where those cheesy It gets better campaigns do more harm to transgender people than good. Where having a voice and living openly as your authentic self can leave you mentally and physically attacked and, in some tragic cases, murdered. She doesn’t hold your hand down memory lane and tells you that it’s going to be okay, and that’s pretty damn refreshing.