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CD of The Week

Week of 2/19/24

    Laura Jane Grace - Hole In My Head (Polyvinyl)

    With Against Me! on hold since the COVID times began, Laura Jane Grace has focused on her solo output. Touring extensively, including a stop at an infamous Philly parking lot, and releasing an album and an EP in 2020 and 2021, respectively, she’s kicking off 2024 with Hole In My Head. It’s another collection of sparse punk tunes that split the difference between stripped-down rockers and acoustic-based tracks.

    Hole In My Head kicks off with the roaring, urgent title track, pleading to keep feeling emotions because “I won't learn to feel less.” The chugging, throwback rocker “I’m Not a Cop” doesn’t mince words when it comes to Laura’s lifelong anti-authority status (don’t miss those doo-wop style “piggy pig pig” backing vocals!). One of the songs Laura’s been playing for a few years now is the acoustic bare-bones “Dysphoria Hoodie” about finding safety from the world wrapped inside an oversized garment.

    A highlight of Hole In My Head is the clapping, grooving “Punk Rock in Basements,” a nostalgic look back at the countless DIY punk shows of Laura’s past but with the distance of the pandemic and its effect on live performances. She really paints a picture, singing. “Yeah we were loud in the crowd, we were freaking out/It was the sound of revolution that translated into action/I can still taste the sweat.” But then the song ends with a flippant shout of “Punk is dead!” – and what’s more punk than that?

    The Replacements-ish “Birds Talk Too” was inspired by her preferred Amsterdam tattoo artist and a special gift of a guitar. On the acoustic side of the record, “Tacos and Toast” and “Keep Your Wheels Straight” are both odes to time spent in St. Louis, where Hole in My Head was recorded last year. “Hard Feelings” finds Laura standing by her bad choices and burned bridges over the years, for better or worse.

    Laura recorded all the instruments herself, with only Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton as an outside contributor. Patton’s bass work truly stands out on the sparse “Mercenary.” Hole In My Head wraps up with the powerful “Give Up The Ghost,” which finds Laura “standing at the Center of the Universe screaming, ‘God I’m not done’” but at the same time suggesting “I think it’s time that I give up the ghost,” which might be a bit contradictory or just indecisive. Facing down possibly emptiness and surrender is a dark way to wrap up the record, as she sings, “With the spirit gone/I'll be what I fear the most/An empty vessel/Just machine at the most.”

    Hole In My Head gives us a look inside the head of one of the premier songwriters of her peer group and is another excellent addition to Laura’s truly impressive catalog.

    See Laura Jane Grace at Philly's Underground Arts on March 6th. Enter to win tickets by voting for this week's Top 11 @ 11.
    Review by Joey O.

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