Transgender punk rocker and Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace's new side project, The Devouring Mothers, unleashes kinetic energy with an intimate touch in Bought to Rot ( Bloodshot Records ).
She's joined by Atom Willard, drummer of Against Me!, and Marc Jacob Hudson, recordist and mixer at Rancho Recordo.
Bought to Rot bristles with the conviction to live freely in the identity one chooses, while navigating the resulting personal, romantic and professional turmoil with humor, strength and screaming punk charisma.
This conviction blasts forth in the opening lines of "China Beach," the first track: "Learn to trust yourself, no one else matters."
Grace expresses love and appreciation for fellow bold outcasts, as in "Reality Bites" when she declares of her subject: "You are so real," and loving them for maintaining their authenticity against an inauthentic world.
"The Friendship Song" celebrates the coming together of two rebels and finding solidarity in it: "You're not like the rest of them / You accept me for who I am." It's the perfect anthem for those who feel like it's them and a couple of friends against the world.
But the love is threaded through with anger and disillusionment. Jaded sorrow powers "The Hotel Song" with the lines: "Always be preparing to leave / Always keep dropping what you don't need / And always be going before love becomes disappointing."
"Manic Depression" catalogues the struggles of dealing with the titular illness with desperate coping mechanisms: "Turn me upside-down, otherwise I'm going to drink and drink and drink / Cause I can't help what my head is telling me / I can't stop myself from listening."
And, in the vein of owning one's identity, Grace embraces longstanding local controversy in "I Hate Chicago." Although some won't like it, sometimes you won't be sure if you're angry or entertained: "No matter how high you … build it, you'll only ever be in Illinois / And that will always be way too close to Missouri."
Stylistically, Bought to Rot careens with the punk energy of Against Me!, but with a stronger lyrical push and stylistic diversity. For instance: "Manic Depression" carries an infectious, grimy blues riff that melts into the loose jams of "The Acid Song," then into the intimate, stripped-down "The Hotel Song," followed by the guitar-led, venomous "Valeria Golino."
An emotional rollercoaster cascading between celebrating love, flicking off the fake and conformist and releasing neurotic pressure, Bought to Rot is an entertaining push in a different direction by one of punk's mainstay artists.
Bought to Rot can be purchased online at https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/bought-rot.
Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers will be playing two more shows in Chicago, on Nov. 18 and 29; visit www.bloodshotrecords.com/tours-events/19967 .