Album Review: Against Me! – “23 Live Sex Acts”

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Live albums can be a tricky sell. Some would argue that it’s pointless to sell slightly different versions of songs that are already on a studio album. Others might say that it’s the truest representation of what a band actually sounds like. 23 Live Sex Acts, Against Me!’s second live album, falls closer to the latter category. Mostly, though, it provides a good look (errr… listen) into how Against Me! have evolved over the years.

On 2006’s Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!, the band consisted of the “classic” (as it were) line up of Laura Jane Grace, James Bowman, Andrew Seward, and Warren Oakes. In case you’ve been living under a rock, these days Grace and Bowman are joined by Inge Johansson and Atom Willard: a line up change that has drastically altered their live performance. If it does nothing else, 23 Live Sex Acts highlights the type of energy to expect out of Against Me! in the new decade.

Given that the album was recorded during the Transgender Dysphoria Blues tour, it’s natural that the album would get the most representation (six songs are taken from it). But that still leaves 17 more tracks for Against Me! to devote to their back catalogue. Many song choices are obvious (to name a few: “Pints of Guiness Make You Strong”, “Sink, Florida, Sink”, “Thrash Unreal”, “Don’t Lose Touch”) but the band also unearthed some deep cuts for this tour, most notably “How Low” and an updated “Pretty Girls (The Mover)”. During promotional interviews for the album the band stated that their goal was to avoid creating a “greatest hits” package, but if you’ve ever seen Against Me! live, you know that it’s hard to distinguish between a greatest hits playlist and the band’s usual set.

In an unfortunate move, 23 Live Sex Acts is made up of recordings from throughout the entire tour rather than a single show. The flow is edited well enough, but it feels a little awkward when specific events go down: After “True Trans Soul Rebel”, Grace asks the audience “is everything cool?” suggesting that things were on the verge of getting rowdy. “New Wave”, on the other hand, is completely interrupted when Grace begins to berate security for kicking out an audience member. The song is considered a bust, and the band simply moves on. Moments like these make shows exciting to attend, and it’s a shame that 23 Live Sex Acts only provides snippets instead of the full experience.

With its strengths (showcasing Johansson’s and Willard’s contributions to the band; a solid set list; the songs are played a lot faster than on Americans Abroad!!!) overshadowing its weaknesses (the album being assembled from various shows), 23 Live Sex Acts joins the ranks of It’s Alive, Liveage, and I Heard They Suck Live!! as live punk albums worthy of owning.

4 / 5

RIYL: The Menzingers, The Flatliners, Hot Water Music

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