Two Coffins – Against Me!

“Two coffins for sleep. One for you, one for me. We’ll get there eventually”

Romantic isn’t it? The idea of being together forever. I’m not going to get all mushy on ya. I am going to talk about one of my absolute favourite album of the 21st century though. It’s had a feature on the EsEffTeeDees before. I made a case for Black Me Out way back when and effused and enthused. Black Me Out is a rager though. A big old blustery punk rock war dance. There is more to this band than just that. Take the albums title track for instance. Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It’s name is like a riff on Bob Dylan. A gag Radiohead also played with on OK Computers Subterranean Home Sick Alien. It’s oldey folkey and it’s twisted modern and relevant at the same time. Those up and at them Irish folk style drums opening an album that might be covered in Green Day or Clash body armour but at it’s core is Dylan-esque folk inspired blues rock. Two Coffins is one of the moments where that is most obviously at the surface of the grooves.

“In the dark of our graves our bodies will decay. I wish you’d never change. How lucky I ever was to see the way that you smiled at me”

The sleeve of the album looks like gutter punk. Stark black and white, unflinching and a impolitely gruesome. A severed breast chopped from a cadaver like a cube of meat. With it’s sinews and gristle on show. Even then our moral guardians saw fit to censor the nipple on top. There is it is folks. The maximum dumb. Nanny State has decreed some consumers cannot be trusted to handle gendered meat. WONT SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN! What’s so impressive between the sleeve image and the sound is how hook ridden the record is. It’s almost power pop it’s so instantly catchy. The opening trio of title track, True Trans Soul Rebel and Unconditional Love could all have been singles (were it not for all the naughty words and their power to derail the youth into an immoral life of misbehaviour). You get the feeling you could be listening to a greatest hits compilation so tight is the songwriting and so urgent the pace. It could have been a commercial behemoth beneath the absurdity of sticker placements and black bars on screen images from some retailers is truly boggling. Of course Unconditional Love was the single. So the sleeve for that kept the austere gutter punk, severed body parts theme and many a casual listener would have sailed straight past it thinking they were not in the mood for grindcore.

“Your little moon face shining bright at me. One day soon there’ll be nothing left of you and me. Two coffins for sleep”

Drinking With The Jocks rages harder than the first three tracks. Laura Jane is screaming about a life long struggle to feel belonging and playing several roles in the songs lyrics. Wishing to fit in. Recognising the difference and it’s permanence and coming to terms with those hard truths.

Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ is the sort of title that separates the real punks, freaks, subversives and artists from the pop pickers and teeny boppers. The guitars burn like phosphorous flares above an inky black ocean on this slow grinder while Laura Jane feels the doomed fate of those who don’t fit in weighing down. FUCKMYLIFE666 picks things up with the tuning. We’re back in the positive rage arena. Talking about never wanting to regret inaction. Choruses to spare. Melodies in the vocal line and questions of the heart. It also predicts the end. Even though we’ve only just started side two.

Dead Friend gets real very quickly indeed. Survivors are by definition experienced and battle hardened by their experience. Otherwise they’re lost to us. The pace again is up and the melodies breezy folk pop but a fine punk noise obscures the sweetness of the song a little.

“All things will fade, maybe it’s better off that way. I wish you’d stay with me. How lucky I ever was to see the way that you smiled at me. Your little moon face shining bright at me. One day soon there’ll be nothing left of you and me”

Then at last, on track eight of ten the acoustics come out. Two Coffins is a tranquil little memento mori moment. A wake for that Dead Friend perhaps. Is Laura Jane mourning Thomas James Gable? Or the relationship of man and wife she had with Tiffany? Or just the past before heading to the future. The details are personal and specific. You don’t need them to feel the emotion. Two Coffins works like a companion piece to Amanda Palmer’s brilliant Bed Song. Similar themes. Less resentment. Against Me! are more optimistic and uplifting but equally tear jerking.

“Two coffins for sleep. Two coffins for sleep. How lucky I ever was to see the way that you smiled at me. Your little moon face shining bright at me. One day soon there’ll be nothing left of you and me. Two coffins for sleep”

Talking of uplifting. Songs with titles like Paralytic States should not sound like sunshine bursting through storm clouds to restore balance. Guess what though? It does. Lyrical content talks of a real rock bottom situation. There’s destitution, poverty and desperation in the words. The chords, the melody. It can help but sound like a rabble rouser. That closing line “By the time the ball dropped it was already over, no resolutions for the new year beginning tomorrow” absolutely slays me. It’d be unbearable if it weren’t so optimistic in tone.

Then the album neatly wraps itself up in Black Me Out. It’s as if it’s sung to the listener from the other side. After all the struggle. The heart ache, the human mess. Our Rebel has ascended.

I’m posting a live session of the song of the day so you can feel Laura Jane Grace’s Bob Dylan moment in isolation. I’m also posting a link to a YouTube playlist for the whole album someone made because as a complete work that knows how long an album should be, how a group of songs should hang together and how fast loud heavy music still needs texture, variation and ‘a point’ Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a modern masterpiece. In my humble opinion of course.

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7 thoughts on “Two Coffins – Against Me!

      1. There are so many good moments. I still count S2 through approx. S7-8 as the best, but we’re working through the rest. It’ll take forever, they’re on S30 now I think.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. That’s a great song, that is. Thanks for your excellent post, too.

    True story: On 2013-03-31, I went with Brother Wilf to see a Bad Religion show in Taranna. It was awesome (natch). The opening act was supposed to be Against Me!, but for whatever reason they did not appear. Instead, we got The Polar Bear Club and The Bronx. Since you recently also posted The Bronx on here, I thought this story was worth mentioning.

    Liked by 1 person

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