“Learn to trust yourself, no one else matters”: the opening statement to Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers first album is stark and powerful. Delivered in a snarled spoken word so as to puncture the eardrum as the first thing you hear to launch an album Grace apparently feared would never be if she didn’t make it this year, it’s a strong portent of things to come, that Bought To Rot (Bloodshot) is as much a lyrical album as anything else.
Curated and developed in honour of Tom Petty, whose solo debut album Full Moon Fever (MCA) was crafted when was the same age as Grace was at the conception of the record and has served as a clear inspiration for Bought To Rot, we expect nothing less than honesty from Grace in her lyrics, but what remained to be seen was the level of acerbity, and the direction the flames would travel from her lips. And it is a predominantly personal position that is taken, from self-inspiration to self-deprecation, from apologies and caustic insights into her world at a local level, to a divorce song dressed up as a burn song to her home city, the brilliant and memorable ‘I Hate Chicago’.
Musically, proceedings sit mainly in an Americana-sprayed lighter end of urban US punk rock, with hints of Indie, there is a scent of Placebo to several tracks, with Grace also reminiscent of Brian Molko at times, meaning Bought To Rot isn’t as overtly energetic or fiery in terms of music as Grace’s main vehicle Against Me!, but then, there would be little mileage in a release that sat too close to the homestead, and the increased diversity of tone is welcome. At times, and maybe it is Grace’s deference to spoken passages, there are strong hints of The Doors, at others, she spins a nineties alt.rock web underneath her observations and proclamations.
Ultimately, Bought To Rot has a carefree and fickle nature that adds an endearing unpredictability to a respectable collection of musical sparks. At times amusing, at others biting, and always engaging and well-crafted, Laura Jane Grace has provided us with a worthwhile window into her present.