ALBUM REVIEW: Laura Jane Grace – Hole in My Head | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Big Scary Monsters

Released: 16.02.24

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image by Bella Peterson

For a record whose tone is predominantly optimistic, Laura Jane Grace’s second solo outing signs off on a curiously sombre note. “I think it’s time that I give up the ghost,” she muses. “With the spirit gone, I’ll be what I fear the most / An empty vessel, machine at the most.” Emphatic in their brevity and apparent candour, these frets appear neither founded nor portents of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, Give Up The Ghost adds a striking coda to what’s comfortably Grace’s most compelling collection since Against Me! classic Transgender Dysphoria Blues landed a whole decade back – and while the threads connecting them aren’t quite so pronounced, the feeling and conviction underpinning its 11 cuts show no sign of dimming.

This alone represents some feat for a songwriter who – as alluded to on Punk Rock In Basements – has been plying her trade for the better part of three decades, yet it’s that lived experience above all else which bears fruit across Hole In My Head’s characteristically brisk 25 minutes. An audio scrapbook of fiery anthems, anecdotal reminisces and moving reflections, it’s a record whose tales span from adolescence through to present day, shared at a moment when she’s scarcely sounded at such ease – with her craft, and in her own skin to boot.

Live regulars may already recognise Dysphoria Hoodie’s hunt for a shield amidst perennial conflicts between sex, religion and body image, yet future staple I’m Not A Cop also feels fondly familiar with its furious roar and distorted folk punk impulse. More salient still, Tacos And Toast is a lower key yet equally powerful standout which documents contentment in her new part-time home of St. Louis, Missouri. Harvesting beauty and warmth from the seemingly mundane, it’s a showcase of Grace’s writing at its most poignant, epitomising the matured perspective and deft human touch Hole In My Head’s stripped-back vignettes so expertly project. Sure, there’s little prospect of it proving the most revolutionary or influential record in her canon, but “spiritless,” “empty” and “machine-like?” On the contrary, Laura Jane Grace has rarely sounded so far from scraping such depths.

 

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