It’s true I tend to loathe all popular music of the early 2000s. That’s not some sort of snotty hipster proclamation; it’s just a statement of my general distaste for rich white boys writing “punk” music about how they have to shoulder the woeful burdens of life all themselves (alright, maybe it’s a little hipster on my part). There’s also the substance-less rap of the era, which turned me away from what is today one of my favorite genres. That, combined with my ignorance towards R&B and my anti-popist rockist tendencies, made me entrench into the classic rock of my parents’ generation.
But, I don’t completely dislike pop punk. After all, I was into Sum41 and Green Day back when that was a thing. Some of this might be due to the fact that we romanticize the music of our youth. Ajay Kalia conducted a music survey using data from Spotify that illustrates this effect quite nicely. It was also discussed on an episode of Sound Opinions that I’d recommend. I’m not exactly one to look fondly upon that time in our music history, but perhaps there’s some sort of subconscious longing for the music of our youth.
More than that though, punk is just visceral, angry and satisfying in ways other genres can never be. When Against Me! lead, Laura Jane Grace, screams “God fucking damn-it/ God damn I miss my dead friends,” you hear that anger in her voice, but you feel all the complicated emotions that come along with death as well: confusion, resentment, sadness.
You couldn’t help but feel the weight of those lines as they blasted against the walls and moshing crowd pushing against the front of the stage. The band’s latest album, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” is all about Grace’s transition and the struggles she’s faced along the way. The album is a true anthem of trans rights and helped show an ignorant, privileged, white, cis-gender, male, such as myself, a small glimpse of what it’s like to be in Grace’s shoes.
“Transgender Dysphoria Blues” was one of my favorite albums of last year precisely because it made the transgender experience relatable in a way I never understand before. Not to say I didn’t support LGBT issues, but it’s one thing to understand something intellectually and another thing entirely to emotionally grapple with an experience outside of your own.
It was particularly poignant to see the band perform just days after marriage equality was guaranteed by the Supreme Court. It was a night to celebrate but also reflect on the great struggles left for the LGBT community.
Against Me! serves up the perfect mixture of anger, sorrow and social change to make any music fan or human rights activist pay attention, and that label of pop punk should be no barrier to its enjoyment.