Laura Jane Grace – ‘Hole In My Head’

By Tom Walsh

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Laura Jane Grace recounted a conversation she had with her daughter in 2018 ahead of undergoing life-altering surgery. The facial feminisation procedure, as part of the singer’s transition, would leave her with a scar on the back of her head. She told the magazine that her daughter’s reaction was “So you want a hole in your head?” to which Grace simply replied “I guess I do”.

That conversation has lingered with Grace for years and provides the inspiration for her third solo record (2018’s ‘Born To Rot’ was under the guise of her ‘Devouring Mothers’ project), a collection of, once again, deeply personal tracks backed by a 50s rock grooves. There are the sprinkling boppy, yet sad, folk songs detailing lonely birthdays, isolation and yearning for a new love.

With full-time duties with her staple band Against Me! firmly on the backburner, Grace has begun the process of unpacking her soul into solo records. While 2020’s ‘Stay Alive’, had tracks originally planned for as-yet-unfinished Against Me! songs, ‘Hole In My Head’ are more of Grace’s journal entries brought to life.

Collaborating with The Drive By Truckers’ bassist Matt Patton, Grace puts a soundtrack to these scribblings. Long-time tour favourite ‘Dysphoria Hoodie’ is an ode to her battered Adidas pullover which acts as a comfort blanket during the days where she just wants the world to swallow her up and has struck a chord with her counterparts in the transgender community. Here, the song is given the polish it has longed for.

‘Birds Talk Too’ was penned following Grace’s final tattoo session by the legendary Japanese artists Gakkin and Kenji Alucky in Amsterdam, detailing her love for the finer things the city has to offer such as “Champagne Haze at Rookies”. It’s a great rock and roll track with a swinging groove and lends itself well to hit straight into ‘Punk Rock in Basements’, a more nostalgic look at the good old days.

Pining for the past glories is not something that usually features in Against Me! or Grace’s writing, it’s usually focused on lamenting a lost love or raging at previous fuck-ups, so this is something quite refreshing. The theme continues in ‘Cuffing Season’, as Grace dreams of new love with a beautiful acoustic folk song. Picturing her potential future beau, she utters: “Unguard your tenderness of heart / Let go of the fear you may fall apart / You don’t have to like the truth to know it’s worth the cost”.

We’re back in more familiar territory on ‘Tacos And Toast’, a classic country-esque track, detailing a miserable birthday. Grace sings of driving aimlessly with nothing to do on a grey day which is meant to be for celebrating, but laying a ghost of a past relationship to rest. She wistfully sings: “I think I’ll get a line tattoo’d through your name / You will be read as a clear mistake”.

Closer ‘Give Up The Ghost’ is another poignant acoustic song where Grace questions whether it’s time to pack all this in and move on from music. On the basis of ‘Hole In My Head’, it’s a sentiment you hope Grace doesn’t lament on for too long as this, once again, shows the honesty, openness and energy that her songwriting can portray, and we’d really miss that.

TOM WALSH

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