2014 was undoubtedly Against Me!’s year, from releasing their sixth studio album (‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’) to Laura Jane Grace’s AOL docu-series being nominated for ‘Outstanding Documentary’ at the GLAADs media awards. ’23 Live Sex Acts’ is a document of that year, with the tracks being taken from various stops on their 2014 world tour.
Against Me! are a band in their prime putting together an ideal setlist spanning the band’s impressive catalogue (not more than 4 tracks off any singular record). This 23-song collection is certainly something for any seasoned AM! fan would take interest in but beyond that this release has little staying power. Put another way: if you want the Against Me! live experience, go catch them live (they work relentlessly hard), this record doesn’t do their live show or the quality of their songs justice.
Less polished earlier works such as ‘Pints of Guinness…’ and ‘Cliché Guevara’ unsurprisingly come across far better than tracks that clearly required more studio attention (such as ‘Thrash Unreal’), but overall the release is simply lacking. The more ‘raw’ tracks lacked their punch/beefed up guitar, the more polished tracks we’re not executed as well as you would have hoped and there was little further insight into the band/dialogue between songs.
Gripes aside, this is a great chance to get the picks of the AM! back catalogue all in one place. Sure, one or two performances may be a little off, but the track selections are great, and there are glimpses of the band at their best, particularly on tracks like ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’. And there is more then enough aspects of the band’s live show to make this a worthwhile listen. There’s the bite and snarl of Grace as she stands her ground against venue security, and vocally she’s strong throughout. It also gives really telling examples of how damn good a live drummer Atom Willard is, with his smooth effortless playing style showcased to excellent effect.
Live records have always been directed at the existing fans (who would cite a live record in their end of year top 10?) and this release doesn’t shake that view.
Realistically, it’s best to look at ’23 Live Sex Acts’ as a taster of Against Me!’s live show, as an incentive and spur to get out and actually experience them for yourselves next time they hit the UK. No live album, however good or otherwise, can ever fully do justice to the experience of being in the crowd and taking in a band’s performance first-hand.
’23 Live Setx Acts’ by Against Me! is out now Xtra Mile Recordings/Total Treble Music.
Words by Mark Bussey.