There’s an argument to be made that ‘At War With The Silverfish’ is Laura Jane Grace returning to her natural habit. Long before her group Against Me! recruited a drummer, bassist or utilized amplification, a 17-year-old Grace would perform solo under said moniker wherever and whenever. This collection of songs, the follow up to last year’s excellent debut solo work, ‘Stay Alive’, is similarly raw and unpolished.
Opener ‘Three Of Hearts’ recalls the early acoustic days of Against Me!, a time that saw Grace playing alone in squats, dive bars and (no, really) launderettes. The audience in those days were few, and it’s difficult to shake the suspicion she’s trialed the songs here in front of an audience consisting of just the moonlight, the creek of old floorboards and the demons that dance with all of us when we’re alone and the rest of the world sleeps.
A commonality that binds the best Against Me! songs are that they sizzle with rage, but increasingly the best songs that Grace writes are engulfed by melancholy. One such example can be found here in ‘Lolo 13’, a gentle lament which appears to be written in the form of a letter to a love that never was. ‘Electro Static Sweep’ wanders similar territory, and sounds a little bit like what might happen if one decided to attempt to replicate The Beatles ambitious Abbey Road sessions on a rudimentary 8-track (actually at Grace’s own TinyQuietStudio in Chicago).
Best of all, however, is the charmingly titled, achingly sad ‘Smug Fuck Face’, a Mountain Goats song in all but name. The song concludes in under 90 seconds. The silence where once there was music rings out louder than the song itself.
The record rounds out with a composition called ‘Yesterday Pt II’, which – enhanced with chunkier fuzz – could be an Against Me! song. It’s a song more than deserving of a home, which justifies its place here, on a record that often feels more like a sketchbook of ideas – a document of creation, if you will – than it does a coherent record.
And yet you may well feel a pang of disappointment that things end on such a familiar note, given that elsewhere Grace has utilized colours and tones that add to her already impressive skillset as a songwriter. ‘At War With The Silverfish’ recalls her past often, yes, but it arguably says more about where she’s going.
Release date: September 22
Record label: Big Scary Monsters