As the weather heats up, we are reminded that Mother Nature cannot be denied, and summer is on the way. With that warm weather comes thoughts of summer music, and my mind starts to drift back to summers when I was younger. Hey, not that much younger, but still. I remember when I thought there was nothing better than some great rock songs to keep me going, and then I did it. I thought of Pansy Division, and what great summer music they make, and it was over. I couldn't think of anyone else, and, in fact, didn't want to think of anything, so I went directly to iTunes and started playing 'The Essential Pansy Division', a great favorite of mine. Then I checked out some of the individual releases, and discovered that 20 years ago this past March, they released the album I first fell in love with, 'Undressed'. The band, who I think of as one of the Leather Daddy of Queercore, were came together in 1991, and made their debut in 1993. At that time, Jon Ginoli, Chris Freeman, and Patrick Hawley made up the band. Ginoli and Freeman have been the core of the band throughout, and Ginoli has written much of their songs. To be honest, I didn't find them until '94, when they made a big splash with inclusion on several Punk compilation albums, and being chosen to open for Greenday on the 'Dookie' tour. But once I found them, I've never let them go...
'Undressed' was their debut album, and it featured short songs often performed at breakneck speed, typical for Punk bands. It also bore witness to the influences of many Punkers, Pop music of the 1960s. What was not so typical, however, was the content, as Ginoli wrote songs specifically about his experience as a gay man, including some sexually explicit themes. Like much of Punk, the 'safe' was the only taboo. From the opening song to the last, Pansy Division was in-your-face gay, a startling and welcome relief from many gay boys who thought the genres was exclusively heterosexual. The music is bold and brash, while the lyrics are salacious, real, and often funny. They spoke of gay men and gay sex in an honest way, and often tackled bigotry with a raised fist and a wry smile. Let's begin with a track I love, but before I do, I will have to say this music is meant to play loud, and not in an office. Some might be offended by the frank language. Luckily, I am not. I begin with "Bunnies", taking a look at the very early stages of some very special physical relationships I would bet we all have had.
Ah, yes, we've all be there before. Now I will move an to another song, one with a stronger melody, a mid-tempo song. "Hippy Dude" speaks to a particular penchant one might have, for a particular type of guy. Some might like a Twink, while others a Bear. Some get excited by seeing a Punk, while still others get turned on by a Geek. Apparently, the San Fransisco-based band had a thing for counter-culture boys. I hope you enjoy "Hippy Dude".
Next up, I thought I would share with you this amazing cover song. Well, quasi-cover, as it were. You see, "Rock & Roll Queer Bar" take the music of "Rock & Roll High School" and Ginoli gives it new lyrics, making the song a whole new present to the world. The band lampoons the experience, poking lightly at the 'stereotypes' found in the typical gay bar. Enjoy "Rock & Roll Queer Bar".
Finally, I bring you the last track on the album, "ANTHEM". The song allows the boys to stand up and be out and proud rockers, with no apologies. Once again they are in-your-face, announcing they are "the butt-fuckers of rock & roll". The song has great energy, and some fantastic electric guitar work. So watch out world, they are coming to get you. Listen to "ANTHEM" by The Pansy Division.
This 13-song effort is fantastic from top to bottom. They shift between relentless Punk tempos to melodic Pop songs with a grace and ease few could. What never shifts is the commitment to offering a view of gay life, or of life seen through the gay eyes of a Rock band. Two decades ago, it was unlike anything I had heard before. And when I listen to it today, it still sounds fresh and new, and just as irresistible. You can purchase 'Undressed' from iTunes and BandCamp. You can order the physical CD from Amazon. For more information about Pansy Division, you can visit their official website, 'like' them on Facebook, or 'follow' them on Twitter.