These are songs of late night madness and loneliness, orphan songs that came wandering in looking to feed like insects, Laura Jane Grace says of her new EP. Half recorded at Grace’s TinyQuietStudio in Chicago and half recorded at Electric Eel in St. Louis, and mixed by her Devouring Mothers bandmate Marc Hudson, At War With The Silverfish finds Grace in a range of stripped-back, poignant modes that amount to an honest and holistic account of our shared humanity.
Unafraid to spotlight open wounds and tangled feelings, Grace conveys the distinctive pluck that has defined her work with Against Me! and The Devouring Mothers, but with the intimate energy of home recording with an acoustic guitar. The album is not a clarion call, but a tender invitation. It is a necessary capsule of a woman’s artistic pulse; love, longing and loneliness told in affecting turns of phrase.
“Three of hearts/Two of them are broken/One of them is gold/All of them are worthless,” she sings on opener “Three of Hearts,” admitting later that she’s the “...surest sucker that you’ll ever see.” This vulnerable posture drives much of that album, like on “Lolo 13,” where Grace pines for a love she never had, and on “Yesterday Pt. II,” where she remembers a lover’s goodbye with visceral intensity. “I know I sound insane,” she repeats three times on the latter, imparting anxiety and resolve at once. It’s a device she employs through the record, deftly illustrating the mental gymnastics on the roads to self doubt and self acceptance.
Amid the emotional outpouring are piercing scenes of isolated domestic life — the endless cups of reheated java (“Day Old Coffee”), the relief of reconnecting with an old friend (“Electro-Static Sweep”). And then there is her old friend, Chicago, a city by now her home but not without its pain points. “Way out here on the edge of oblivion/May as well be Skokie, you’d have been so lucky for Berwyn,” she sings on “Long Dark Night,” surveying the landscape of her new Northside home, not the “hip” part of town but one vital to its cultural diversity.
Reflecting on the album’s interiority, Grace acknowledges the universal nature of many of its themes — how her highly personal accounts bloom into broader human connection. “I've learned that if you share your experience with good intentions that the universe will always surprise you with abundant return,” she says. “Every song is an act of faith; you don't necessarily know why you're singing it other than you know you've got to sing it.”