Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace has never been one to shy away from subject matters that are close to her heart or one who is afraid to vent her anger. And while the US punk band has been the vehicle for rants and diatribes for the past 10 years, her new side project The Devouring Mothers is lyrically more introspective and musically a more diverse and laid back affair.
Joined by Against Me! drummer Atom Willard and Against Me! producer Marc Jacob Hudson on bass duties, ‘Bought To Rot’ is an album heavily influenced by Tom Petty’s ‘Full Moon Fever’. Laura Jane Grace continues the tongue in cheek lyricism, yet avoids the lyrical themes of the day job, namely gender identity and politics, choosing matters close to the heart like lost love, new friends and hating Chicago!
Opener ‘China Beach’ draws you in with its Iggy Pop/Patti Smith feel, the lyrics delivered almost spoken word, a series of questions, as the rhythm section jams out some cool 70’s styled NY beats behind her as it builds to a chaotic finale.
Chaos and melody intertwine throughout the album over simple chord progressions. The name of the game; squeeze too many syllables into verses, before breaking into an anthemic chorus, it’s an art form that is perfectly executed. The likes of ‘Born In Black’ and the following ‘The Airplane Song’ are fine examples of this.
‘Apocalypse Now (& Later)’ is full on Petty vibes that build on a jangly verse to a killer chorus. Let’s hold hands and watch the apocalypse together… sublime poetry in motion. Following the same sentiment, ‘The Friendship Song’ plays out like its companion song, the happy-go-lucky feel sits well.
In contrast, the aforementioned ‘Valeria Golina’ is a dark and messy one chord wonder and ‘Manic Depression’ an even darker blues drenched jam out that mesmerises as you take in the singer’s head fucked train of thought. “I can’t help what my head is telling” me she drawls before feedback and a descending guitar solo takes precedence.
On first listen ‘I Hate Chicago’ is a lyrical diatribe aimed at her adopted home town, but on closer inspection, it’s more of a break-up song, name-checking traffic, sport and Lollapalooza amongst others. These are the places and feelings that are reminders of pain and hurt from the city where her ex lives. It’s a ballsy and brilliant statement and one of the standout cuts on offer.
To go from ‘New Values’ era Iggy with bumbling bass and intertwining guitars (The Acid Test Song’), to almost a bedtime lullaby (‘The Hotel Song’), onto a dark and foreboding one chord rant (‘Valeria Golina’) takes some doing. Apparently, the intention was to create the feel of a mixtape and I think in that respect Laura Jane Grace has succeeded.
Loose and stripped back, avoiding the lyrical themes of her day job and concentrating on life, love and friendship, ‘Bought To Rot’ is not as visceral as anything by Against Me!, but ‘Bought To Rot’ still manages to be punk as fuck.
Author: Ben Hughes