It’s not until you look at Bought To Rot the way that LAURA JANE GRACE looks at Bought To Rot that it starts to make sense. It’s a mixtape, a collection of songs influenced by the people that influence her and brought together by her and her new look band, THE DEVOURING MOTHERS (Atom Willard and Marc Jacob Hudson). It’s an opportunity for her to operate outside of the expectations of Against Me!. If there’s such a thing as a musical holiday, this is it.
And once you get into that mindset, things begin to come together because this is not a coherent album. The sound bounces from place to place, with the first two songs alone leaping from the angsty off-kilter frustration of ‘China Beach’ to the melancholy of ‘Born in Black’. It’s more of a collection of ideas, an insight into the mind of Laura Jane Grace.
Luckily, that’s a mind that you want to spend time in. Because whether Grace is taking a moment to reflect on witnessing the end of the world with someone you love in the brilliant ‘Apocalypse Now (& later)’ or ripping apart her adopted hometown in ‘I Hate Chicago’ (‘learn how to make a pizza you jack-offs’), she is one of music’s strongest voices. With Against Me! she’s proven herself as a singularly powerful presence, taking a stand for what she believes in. This album is different, though. It’s a looser affair, driven by a pop sensibility that is at home looking at complicated relationships (‘The Airplane Song‘) as it is manic depression (‘Manic Depression‘).
Which isn’t to say it’s perfect. That incoherent flow does lead to a few dud minutes as songs fail to hit. ‘Amsterdam Hotel Room’ is a too big a left turn as Grace’s almost spoken delivery doesn’t do enough to drag up the aggressive jab of the music. However, even with fourteen tracks this album whips by, with nothing creeping over the four-minute mark and most of these songs coming in at under three. It makes it easy to forget the missteps as your quickly onto the next thing.
Bought To Rot isn’t going to go into the canon the way the best of Against Me! has. It’s unfair to expect it to. Some shoes are too big to step into, and there’s still a joy to be found in this album. It’s the sound of a musician cutting loose and doing what they want to do. It’s not perfect, but sometimes that doesn’t matter.