Day Seventy-Four: Total Clarity

by Tom Noonan

A little heard demo from Against Me!’s Searching for a Former Clarity sessions, “Total Clarity” is a song of shifting landscapes, allowing painfully vivid lyrics to descend into the chaos of crashing cymbals and guttural guitar rumblings.  The song plays like a Fiona Apple piece, a wound left open to the world in hopes that it might begin to heal.  Knowing what we know now, that Tom Gabel was struggling with transgender dysphoria when he wrote and recorded this song, that Tom Gabel is now Laura Jane Grace, this song takes on a more complicated identity.  It is unclear who the “you” in the song is, but figuring out whether Gabel was writing to someone else or to himself, at this point, seems like a useless exercise.  Even if these details aren’t his own personal experiences, they relate his struggles with identity well by placing the action of “Confessing childhood secrets of dressing up in women’s clothes/Compulsions you never knew the reasons to” onto a distanced “you”.  Even in one of the Against Me! leader’s most personal and bare lyrical performances, the struggle is not his own.  This, it seems, is the way it should be.