Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers – ‘Bought To Rot’

By Tom Walsh

Like a shooting star through the sky or spotting a four-leaf clover, it is a very rare occurrence for Laura Jane Grace to get bitten by the solo record bug. It’s almost a decade since Grace last dabbled in a project away from Against Me! with the short and sharp ‘Heart Burns’. Initially penned as future Against Me! tracks, Grace’s commentary on the political environment of the day and her desire to experiment with different styles meant a solo record felt more appropriate.

Speaking in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Grace admits that at the time of recording ‘Heart Burns’, Against Me! were in “really dark times”. However, time heals old wounds and ten years on, Grace returns with The Devouring Mothers and the self-deprecating, self-effacing, personal, witty, heartbreaking and, at times, downright funny ‘Bought To Rot’.

Without the pressures of making an Against Me! record, Grace’s mind is allowed to wander and she peruses the vast swathes of her musical repertoire to put together a diverse collection of songs. It sways between folk rock, almost grunge-like tendencies and even bluegrass, and as she rages it feels as though it is spat out with a knowing smile.

The rasping track of ‘I Hate Chicago’ originally begins as a tirade against Grace’s adopted home. From traffic snarls and hypocrisy of the midwestern music scene, to incorrectly making pizza and the frantic nature of the city’s airports, it all grinds Grace’s gears. Until, she admits – with an almost self-deprecating laugh – “ah, you caught me, this is actually just another divorce song”.

The tongue-in-cheek sentiment almost diffuses what is a hugely emotionally charged moment, and something that is usually left out of Against Me!’s output. The Devouring Mothers feels like Grace’s release valve, where the songs and feelings that have been stored up can be thrust into the world without any preconceived expectations.

‘Bought To Rot’ provides more poignant moments with Grace touching upon facing the end of the world with a best friend in ‘Apocalypse Now (& later)’ and the growling, ominous “mission statement” of ‘Valeria Golino’. The straight-up indie tones of ‘Reality Bites’ is a plea to love the person you are and never try to be someone else as Grace laments “you are so real. No one wants to be themselves, they all wanna be someone else”.

A decade ago, Grace wrongly thought that ‘Heart Burns’ would be the kickstart that would slap a plaster back over the Against Me! wounds. Bitten by the bug again, ‘Bought To Rot’ is a tour through Grace’s extensive musical back catalogue; it feels like a musician refreshed, liberated, and comfortable with bearing a soul to record.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to wait another ten years before Grace turns to a solo project again…when the bug returns.

TOM WALSH

Three more album reviews for you

LIVE: Anti-Flag / Cancer Bats @ Academy 2, Manchester

SHVPES - 'Greater Than'

GUTTFULL - 'Tits and Nails'