Album: Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
While the news hook of Transgender Dysphoria Blues was, of course, the coming out of Laura Jane Grace, the musical hook was, well, all the hooks she wrote for the record. Among many other things, it was one of the best punk rock albums – as politics and as music – we’ve had in quite some time.
And the musical and emotional directness of “Dead Friend” sums up everything that makes this record great.
Writing about dead friends is tricky territory: In “People Who Died,” Jim Carroll couldn’t shake his detached ironic delivery, so snarky teens (like me) found dark humor in “Tommy couldn’t fly, so Tommy died!” Meanwhile, Lou Reed turned the death of his friend Doc Pomus in to an album-long meditation on the process of dying, and Patterson Hood – the best death song writer we have bar none – often celebrates the lives his characters led, so the dying of AIDS Gregory Dean Smalley couldn’t die now, cos he’s “got another show to do.”
The closest analogy we have to this song is really Ice Cube’s utterly devastating “how strong can you be when you see your pops crying,” from “Dead Homiez,” but he even can’t resist tying his friend’s death into the larger, violence-ridden world in which he’s living.
But Laura Jane Grace is totally direct: “God damn it,” she sings over chord changes that never get old, “I miss my dead friend.”
“Dead Friend” Performed Live, 2014
My Certain Songs Playlist on Spotify