A provocative cover of a woman subjugated at the feet of an unseen, crop-wielding figure sends a simple but strong message. It’s sad that the album isn’t as impactful. Against Me!’s Shape Shift With Me is the Floridian outfit’s seventh full-length and was released on Sept. 16 under Total Treble Music.
It isn’t a bad album per se, but it’s far from memorable and certainly isn’t one of Against Me!’s better releases.
The opening track, “ProVision L-3,” is evocative of the heart of punk rock. Fast drumming; simple, solo-less guitar; angry and pointed lyricism mesh in under two minutes (the punkest song length possible) and inspire hope that Against Me! was returning to its roots.
“ProVision” is most likely an anti-war song, although it could a continuation of the gender-focused themes of Transgender Dysphoria Blues — Against Me!’s 2014 release — pretty much what is to be expected from the transgender front-woman Laura Jane Grace (nee. Tom Gabel).
Some songs on the record are better than others, but few stand out besides “ProVision L-3” and the spoken word sermon of “Norse Truth.”
Although it’s of similar quality sonically, Shape Shift With Me lacks the potency of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Nor does it posses the energetic, angry, underground simplicity of Reinventing Axl Rose, the band’s 2002 debut.
Shape Shift ironically doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it another diary for Grace’s social commentary? Is Against Me! still even punk? Because much of the album sounds incredibly poppy, minus radio-friendly lyrics.
Against Me! is shifting, as the album’s title states. With two releases since Grace’s coming out, the band is still trying to figure out what it wants to be. Shape Shift With Me was an attempt to stay in the game, but seemed uninspired.
It’s too simple musically to be experimental, not angry enough to inspire a riot, not fun enough to be pop. It felt like an album of B-sides without connection, lacking purpose, the opposite of what drove Dysphoria to become the band’s best-selling record.