I wrote this article before Tom announced that he suffers from Gender Dysphoria and will now become female – Laura Grace. This event, and the response to it, has put Against Me! fans and the punk community in an interesting light.
You’ll notice the title of this article is “Against Me! is Reinventing Awesome Fans,” but the article speaks negatively of many ‘fans’ of the band. The title was originally “Against Me! is Reinventing Dickhead Fans”, but this situation has reminded me that despite a few bad apples, one of my favorite bands has a pretty great fanbase.
I will be referring to Tom as Laura from now on, with appropriately changed pronouns. I’ve seen a few people expressing complete disgust at those saying things like “RIP Tom Gabel” or just “Tom Gay-Bel,” but I don’t worry about it, because for every disgusting asshole I’ve noticed there have seemed to be a thousand punk rockers coming out of nowhere with raised fists telling that person to fuck off. I for one am proud to be an Against Me! fan right now.
However, to indulge some of the criticisms I’ve heard, and to bring this back to the point of the article: if you care at all to read this, it is because one or more Against Me! records have affected you in some profound way, and those records were made because Laura and the guys sought fulfillment. Now Laura will come fully into herself because she continued to seek fulfillment. On that note, I must support her, if only to repay the debt I owe for all the long nights spent being kept alive by records she made for the same reason she is now undergoing hormone treatments and electrolysis. If her voice changes and I never hear that beautiful howl again, so be it. She’s given us more than we ever had the right to ask for, and if this is what she needs to do, this is what we should all want her to do.
If you’re reading this, Laura, every Against Me! fan I know is right beside me saying that we love you, and that we wish you the best.
– Zack Fowler
“So, next time you feel the need to take it further than your place as a consumer of art, why don’t you put down the keyboard and find something constructive to do?”
So there’s this thing shitty fans do when they fall in love with a life-changing record where they put the band or artist that made it into this career gridlock. If their next record expands on the same idea, then “all of their songs sound the same.” If their next record is a departure from that style, then they’ve “lost their way” or, more commonly, “all your new songs are shit.” Perhaps the most important part of this outlook is that judgments are made independent of quality. They don’t care if the new record is good. In fact, they can never consider the new record adequate, because they’ve put the old one on a pedestal.
This is about as dramatic as I’ve ever seen with one of my favorite bands, Against Me!, though this certainly applies to loads of other bands as well. Everything Tom and the boys have put to tape since Reinventing Axl Rose has been called sellout bullshit, and I just think it’s ridiculous. Tom particularly has been harassed by former fans to an unacceptable extent. It’s not because the new records are good (though I think they are, and anyone who doesn’t feel something during ‘Ache With Me’ clearly has no soul), it’s because it’s logically impossible for any artist to please these people.
Take Reinventing Axl Rose, Born To Run, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The ’59 Sound, or essentially any record that someone heard and said, “This is it. This is what a record should be.” Once you’ve turned any work of art into the ideal within that medium, then logically any other work will not be as good. If Reinventing Axl Rose is your definition of perfection for a record – more specifically a punk record, or a record written by Tom Gabel – then there is no fathomable way you will ever like another record as much without enduring some fundamental personal change (which, for “fans” like this, would be an improvement).
Now, deeming a record the ultimate fulfillment of a medium is perfectly fine; the problem is handling that. For example, while it’s alright to be disappointed in the direction a band has taken, expecting every record to be that good is unfair to the artist, because “good” in this context just means “like the other record,” and no great record can be made twice. Furthermore, if you acknowledge that Against Me! or any other band can make great records, even if you like them less than your particular favorite, but still are disappointed with their direction, there are ways to handle that too.
The best response to not liking a record your favorite band put out is obviously not buying the record. If they put out several records you don’t like, stop going to shows. We live in market economies, that means that not buying the record and skipping out on shows is all the “fuck you” you’re allotted without looking like a twat. If you have a blog or you write for some magazine, be a dick there, and we’ll use the supply and demand policies you’ve ignored to not read that blog. You should never decide to take time out of an artist’s day to treat them like their latest record is a personal attack on your musical integrity. If Tom Gabel asks you what you think, tell him, but he won’t because he doesn’t give a fuck, and tweeting him about how terrible you think White Crosses is personally robs him of the five seconds he could’ve spent not reading your bullshit.
I know it sucks when a band you love stops making music you enjoy, but if they’re past that point in their creative lives, then there’s nothing you or them could do to make them write another record exactly like the one you love but somehow better. So, next time you feel the need to take it further than your place as a consumer of art, why don’t you put down the keyboard and find something constructive to do?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go try to write a record half as good as White Crosses.
– Zack Fowler