When you’re massively inspired and driven by a specific force or character, you may eventually begin to mirror their successes. Primarily inspired by Full Moon Fever, the debut solo record from Tom Petty, Laura Jane Grace is now at the exact age where Petty decided to pursue his own solo endeavors. Whilst many know Grace from fronting the iconic and uncensored punk outfit Against Me!, Bought To Rot, her first solo with Atom Willard and Marc Hudson, further explores her complex and public personality. It’s a deep dive into the mindset of the one of most prolific minds within American punk and a record that explores the concept of convoluted relationships, unforgiving and alien environments and reconciliation. Despite this, Grace still provides the political venom synonymous with her output thus far.
Such a fact becomes relevant with the immediate punk stomp of opener ‘China Beach’. Immediately opening with Grace outpouring withheld ideals prior to exploding with fervor, listeners harboring worries that this record may not carry the intensity of Against Me! will swiftly have such concerns calmed. As the effusion of innermost thoughts continue into the drunken blues swagger of ‘Born In Black’, whereas Against Me! have explored numerous stylings throughout their career, Bought To Rot adheres loyally to age old punk mentality. It’s a far more stripped back affair when compared to the work Laura Jane Grace has produced in the past but the record full heartedly carries the ethos, ideology and scathing unapologetic tendencies associated with the original punk movement. However, as you continue through this record one thing becomes apparent; despite the more stripped back and DIY aesthetic, the aforementioned venom and emotional fervor not only remains prominent, but is allowed to shine with more intensity.
With this in mind, there are times when Bought To Rot dabbles in the stylings of Against Me! and the respective other acts band members have played in previously. With it’s clean acoustic picking that explodes in reverb laden fretwork, lead single ‘Apocalypse Now (& Later)’ could happily sit within an Against Me! record and the frank resentment of ‘I Hate Chicago’ see’s the honest attitude we associate with Grace. This isn’t a criticism in any way however, as these tracks radiate the honesty and human emotion some modern punk bands are lacking in this day and age.
As the record sways into it’s latter half, there’s a noticeable change in tempo, with the vast majority of it’s 14 tracks choosing to take on a more passive and leisurely pace. Of course, the emotion and honesty is still evident and forefront. It’s the sign of an experienced musician who feels no need to intensity their thoughts through bombastic and obnoxious tropes, knowing full well that a more laid back and withheld approach will detail their thoughts, ideals and tales with more accuracy and honest truth.
In all, whilst many shall draw lines between Bought To Rot and the past endeavors of Laura Jane Grace and her band, there are more than enough differences to suitable differentiate the two. Full of honesty, human emotion and experience, this is a record that doesn’t require obnoxiousness to intensity the tales and truths Grace bares bare. With it’s simplistic yet fully engaging stylings, Bought To Rot proves that a sometimes less is certainly more.
Bought To Rot is released November 9th via Bloodshot Records