During “ProVision L-3,” it seems like Against Me!’s seventh album will be a return to more hardcore punk roots albeit in a bland way. Laura Jane Grace and company shatter that idea by the time Grace sings the opening lines of “12:03.” Against Me! deliver a nice helping of heavy power-pop throughout Shape Shift With Me. If Transgender Dysphoria Blues was a rebirth for the punk outfit, Shape Shift With Me is the band finding steady footing.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues set out for Laura Jane Grace to record her experience as coming out as a trans-woman, and Shape Shift With Me seems to show what Grace’s love life has been like since she came out. She has songs that both show excitement for a new relationship (“12:03,” “Crash”) and others that show anger and grief (“Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be,” “Boyfriend”). The melodic instrumentation is reminiscent of punk rock heavyweights like The Gaslight Anthem or Green Day. Grace’s vocals still cut through everything making some of Against Me!’s most solid music and lyrics.
Laura Jane Grace sings some songs at a mile-a-minute. Tracks like “12:03,” “333” and “Norse Truth” have moments where Laura’s speak-singing style crams in all the words she needs to say. “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” is one of the most powerful moments on Shape Shift as it seems to see Grace tackling her gender dysphoria again as she had on Transgender Dysphoria Blues. “Boyfriend” has Grace chastising a lover not to treat her like “some dumb fucking boyfriend,” and you can hear both the anger and lament in her voice. Where most of the early cuts on the album are self-reflective and emotional, the latter tracks of the album take a more lustful approach. “Rebecca” glorifies “just a good couple casual fucks” in a seemingly BDSM relationship, and “Dead Rats” seems to blur the lines between love and lust.
Shape Shift With Me only suffers from the lack of boundaries it pushes. Against Me! have constantly been a band of reinvention, and Shape Shift With Me only succeeds in being a pretty great album. It doesn’t tackle large issues like on Reinventing Axl Rose or Transgender Dysphoria Blues, but Grace’s explorations of personal relationships are still just as enjoyable.