ARTIST: LAURA JANE GRACE & THE DEVOURING MOTHERS

TITLE: BOUGHT TO ROT

LABEL: BLOODSHOT

RATING: 8/10 

WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON

When Laura Jane Grace first announced her new side project Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers, the response was one of both excitement and apprehension, with some fans worried this would signal the end of Against Me! or that perhaps new music from them would be less forthcoming, some questioning why she needed a new outlet when she already had AM! The band’s highly anticipated debut ‘Bought To Rot’ lays those fears to rest, and explains, musically, why The Devouring Mothers are a thing. A delightful collection of varying sounds and styles, TDM are different from Against Me! but without compromising any of Laura’s no nonsense punk attitude, a necessary project for her to explore varying facets of her personality and tinker with different genres without taking AM! in a completely different direction.

On ‘Bought To Rot’, Laura offers up a musically diverse and beautiful 14 tracks along with AM! buddies Atom Willard (drums) and Marc Jacob Hudson (on bass here but the sound guy for AM!), opening up with ‘China Beach’. With an angry, grungy chorus like early Nirvana, and some in-your-face aggro chit chat vocals over the top; it sets the tone from the offset – a track that’s going to sit well with AM! fans and hook them right in for the rest of the listening party. There’s others which would sit very well amongst the Against Me! catalogue too, particularly something like lead single ‘Apocalypse Now (& Later)’. Quite reminiscent of early AM!, it’s probably the one that most people will be familiar with. Exploring the concept of witnessing the apocalypse hand in hand with the person you love, it’s oddly positive for watching the world burn and has a pit ready singalong chorus.

“A delightful collection of varying sounds and styles, TDM are different from Against Me! but without compromising any of Laura’s no nonsense punk attitude”

Much of the album, however, was heavily inspired by Laura’s long time passion for Tom Petty and more specifically, ‘Full Moon Fever’, the first album she ever bought. Following in the naming style of Petty’s ‘The Apartment Song’ on aforementioned ‘Full Moon Fever’, a lot of the titles on ‘Bought To Rot’ follow that same theme. Here we have ‘The Airplane Song’, ‘The Friendship Song’, ‘The Acid Test Song’, ‘The Hotel Song’ and ‘The Apology Song’. Talk about taking a theme and running with it! Just goes to show the Petty inspiration runs deep through this album, not simply in terms of musical style, although there’s plenty of that too. Stuff like ‘Screamy Dreamy’ is like Tom Petty meets post-hardcore. There’s delicate, pretty parts, juxtaposed with cascading, heavy guitar sounds and harsh vocal sounds. It works. There’s a similar vibe on ‘The Hotel Song’ which begins soft and folky, building to a much heavier crescendo, whereas tracks such as ‘The Airplane Song’ and ‘Valeria Golina’ feature some masterful storytelling, the former a tale of lost love and heartache over a cheerful beat and jangly guitars and a catchy hook. It’s a jilted love song, both upbeat and sad at the same time, whereas the latter is a gutsy rocker mocking a former lover’s bedroom performance with bitterness and sarcasm. Doesn’t get much more punk than that.

Actually yes, it does. There’s ‘I Hate Chicago’. Delving into Laura’s somewhat fracturous relationship with Chicago, where she now lives, the track is vitriolic, angry and comic, littered with plenty of liberal swears and details of each specific thing she hates about Chicago. It starts off with the same kind of aggressive punk energy of something like Frank Carter’s ‘I Hate You’, but in the last quarter of the track, things even out a little, with Laura becoming more reflective in her distaste of the city, showing it more of a love/hate relationship than an all out hate. (After all, she does still live there).

“This review could easily have been much longer; there’s something interesting to unpack and check out on every song”

‘Manic Depression’ is an important, heartfelt and truthful song about, unsurprisngly, depression. It goes in pretty deep about what it feels like and how it materialises itself, which will undoubtedly be relatable to the audience and something else to add to the crucial ongoing dialogue over mental illlness in the music scene. The album ends on another thoughtful number, out and out ballad ‘The Apology Song’, a slower, acoustic number yet still with a bit of bounce. It’s a beautiful closer to a kick ass album which has a song for every mood and holds up to repeated listens. This review could easily have been much longer; there’s something interesting to unpack and check out on every song, and yes, it probably could have been an Against Me! album, but you can see why it wasn’t. It works better that it wasn’t. The Devouring Mothers are a separate entity with their own worth and their own stories to tell, and we hope the project sticks around – we can’t wait to hear some of these tracks live on tour!

‘Bought To Rot’ is out now via Bloodshot Records.

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