Album Reviews

Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers Bought To Rot Punk Rock Theory
7.0
 on
Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 21:30
submitted by
Thomas

- by Nate Hennon

Laura Jane Grace's "Bought to Rot" is not an Against Me! album. But considering it is a freewheeling, solo endeavor from Against Me's main creative force, it kind of is an Against Me album. However, if you approach the album expecting Against Me!, you will be wildly off. So yeah, this is where I am coming from with my review of "Bought to Rot"; confused and searching for some clarity (pun intended).

Without getting too deep into my rudimentary "likes" & "dislikes" of "Bought to Rot," let's begin with overall impressions of this album. First, I love everything LJG has produced. Her writing, both song and in print, is approachable, engaging and layered with insight that one can unpack from multiple perspectives throughout one's life. Over the last decade, I have found myself connecting to different LJG songs based on current choices and experience. For instance, I was not a big fan of "Searching for a Former Clarity" when it came out, but one day during a snowstorm in Chicago the loneliness within those songs began to resonate. Also, "New Wave" may be a fantastic album, but since seeing LJG perform solo a few years ago and reading her book and knowing this album comes with a ton of baggage, I have a more conflicted appreciation for the record.

Okay, enough preamble; time to get to the heart of this writing. "Bought to Rot" has pockets of fascinating songs and storytelling, but not all of the songs work for me. Without dwelling on the negative too much, "Bought to Rot" is the first time LJG's lyrics have ever tickled me. "I Hate Chicago" is a highlight. Instead of just listing positive aspects of a city, LJG names all of Chicago's hateable aspects. But then the song takes a very significant turn by admitting the song is actually about divorce. This twist places the song in a different prespective for additional listens while still sticking to the original premise that living away from 'home' kind of sucks.  And, much like Randy Newman's "I Love LA", I can't wait to hear this song get played at the next big sporting event for the 'city of broad shoulders', increasing all of the irony and satire of the writer's intended purpose.

Also, between the 'talk-singing' on "China Beach," the low key coffee shop blues vocal on "Apocalypse Now (& Later)" and LJG signature growl on "Valeria Golino," I don't think Grace has ever shown this type of range on one album. The sheer versatility of LJG on "Bought to Rot" is why I circle back to the idea that is is kind of an Against Me! album. Each song reminds me of something else LJG has done while still feeling new. For example, it is easy; if not lazy, comparison thinks of "Cavalier Eternal" while listening to "The Apology Song." But  I am unsure if an LJG newcomer when think the same person writes these songs. This comment can be said about several other songs, but I may be too deep to avoid overanalysis.

Rather than continuing to eat my tail, I will leave you with this. Listen to "Bought to Rot" if you have not listened to anything LJG has done before. Next to "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," this may be the truest album LJG has written (so far). But if you are a big Against Me fan, I say approach "Bought to Rot" with open ears. There will be things you like, and there will be things you dislike, but this album will not make you love LJG any less.

 

Track listing:

  1. China Beach
  2. Born In Black
  3. The Airplane Song
  4. Apocalypse Now (& Later)
  5. Reality Bites
  6. Amsterdam Hotel Room
  7. The Friendship Song
  8. I Hate Chicago
  9. Screamy Dreamy
  10. Manic Depression
  11. The Acid Test Song
  12. The Hotel Song
  13. Valeria Golina
  14. The Apology Song