Release date: Sept. 16
Label: Total Treble
Duration: 35 minutes
“Shape Shift With Me,” the seventh album from the punk band Against Me!, takes an interesting direction that simultaneously sounds like a call-back to their older material and something completely different. While the style doesn’t work consistently, the album still supplies the weird, creative experience that their fans look for in their music.
Right from the start of the album, it’s clear that Against Me! hasn’t forgotten their roots. The first track, “ProVision L-3” is a short song that bursts out with fast drums, heavily distorted guitar and chanting vocals that would fit perfectly in a '90s garage band setting. This song, as with many on the album, brings back memories of the band’s earlier albums with vocalist Laura Grace singing and shouting in an aggressive and angry voice and the instrumentals taking a raw, punk sound.
This return to form is a bit unexpected when considering the direction that the band seemed to be taking in their last album, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.” While “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” certainly still had punk elements, especially when compared to their previous albums “White Crosses” and “New Wave,” it also took a bit of a melodic route with songs like “Trans Soul Rebel” and “Black Me Out.”
This album still uses this style, but it does so while holding onto a punk identity that wasn’t nearly as present in “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.” The second track, “12:03,” is an example of this as it has a happy tone but the guitar retains its distorted sound, and Grace’s vocals still occasionally slip into the aggressive and vulgar style she uses often throughout the album.
The same goes for several other songs on the album such as “Boyfriend” and “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts” that have a similar hybrid of the band’s punk roots and their more recent rock sound. These songs work well as the mixing of the band’s softer and catchier sides with their more loose and rough sides makes for a unique sound.
One of the most apparent elements of this new album is its simplicity, and this works in good and bad ways. The best example of simplicity helping the band in this album comes from the original single, “333.” This song has a fairly basic verse, bridge, chorus structure and easy-to-remember chorus that make it a light but fun jam that isn’t trying to do anything extravagant.
On the other hand, songs such as “Suicide Bomber” and, to a lesser extent, “All This (And More)” feel like they take their simple structure too far and fall into slightly irritating repetition. The issue of repetition on the album was sort of a death by a thousand cuts, and by the end of the album, it was starting to detract from my enjoyment.
While the album did suffer from some monotony, there were a few songs that took strange but entertaining directions, the most notable of these being “Norse Truth.”In this song, rather than singing, Grace speaks in a deadpan voice that slowly builds intensity and anger as she lets loose line after line of personal and emotional lyrics over a sinister sounding guitar and bass line. There were several songs that held up the weird and unpredictable sides of Against Me! such as “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” and “Dead Rats,” but none are quite on the level of “Norse Truth.”
Overall, “Shape Shift With Me” is an entertaining album, especially for those who miss the classic Against Me! sound, however, some simplistic song structure and repetitive songs keep it from being among their best work.