By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Just when you thought there was no possible musical configuration left after grunge-goth-speed-death-metal-neo-punk-post-New Wave-bubblegum-pop-etc., along comes homo-core.
Specifically, along comes Pansy Division.
Jon Ginoli, Chris Freeman and Danny Panic are the self-proclaimed Pansies, three San Franciscans whose music is from the late-Seventies, early-Eighties melodic punk school and whose lyrics celebrate, well, man's love for his fellow man. Consider this verse from Division's song "Beercan Boy."
Size don't matter/Well, that's usually true
More important/Is who it's attached to
But to find a larger tool/Can sometimes be so thrilling
It goes down smooth/Definitely more filling.
"Our songs come off as being playful," explains guitarist and main songwriter Ginoli from his apartment in the City by the Bay. "They might be kind of explicit, but they're also funny; they're not splat out there against a wall saying, 'Here, look at this!' I know a lot of our songs are not playable on the radio, but that's all right. Our goal is to make the music we want, and people talk about us in a way that makes up for the fact that we don't get much radio play."
If you haven't guessed by now, Pansy Division's music embraces in no uncertain terms homosexual relationships with the same fervor that macho heteros have employed in songs about the ladies for decades. Love, broken hearts, making out, fantasy dates, and, of course, doing the sacred bone dance itself. But despite what the titles may imply--"James Bondage," "Groovy Underwear," "Fluffy City," "Negative Queen"--the Division is quite militant about the music being up to snuff with the attention-getting lyrics. The fear of falling into the realm of novelty act is no joke.
"That was a concern of ours from the beginning," admits Ginoli. "When we started out, we really didn't think there was going to be an audience for what we were doing; we thought we'd be doing it for our friends in San Francisco. We thought if we were really going to be a good band, take it seriously on some level, the music would have to be as good as the lyrics. A lot of our stuff may be funny, but there's sincerity that came out of something that really happened, either to us or people we know. Once you get past the joke, there's still an essence of something real behind the songs."
Denny's dramatic, Denny's dark
He ain't nothing like the restaurant
He's got HIV+ tattooed in black
In 6-inch letters on his back
He said, "I want them to see what they've done to me"
Ginoli, who is in his late 20s and has been closet-free for 13 years, started the band in 1991 through sheer frustration. Though he'd been in groups doing straight material for years, his desire to hear a gay punk band--no Village People, thank you--led him to take action.
"The only [gay rock] precedent I was really influenced by was the Tom Robinson Band," the Illinois native says. "But unlike so much [punk] stuff from the late-Seventies period, it really didn't date very well." Ginoli found Robinson's serious, gay-oriented material tired and heavy-handed; just plain no fun. "I wanted to do something that expressed the fact that I was glad to be gay, but I didn't want to do morose, angst-ridden songs. If I'm up onstage, I want to do something that I enjoy and that the audience really enjoys. I don't mean just some fluff they can cheer to, but something that'll make them feel good about themselves in a certain way."
So. How good and in what certain way can a young, predominantly male rock audience feel about itself listening to songs centered on red-hot queer love?
"We have a tremendous number of high school and college-age fans because the subject matter is genuinely liberating," Ginoli says. "And the fact that they can mosh to it at shows helps a lot, too. A lot of people who are rock fans think, 'I don't know any people who are gay,' or, 'None of the people that I listen to are gay--gay people do dance music.' So I feel like we're infiltrating a domain that normally gets characterized as heterosexual."
A lot of this newfound fan base is because of Pansy Division's recent touring with Green Day, something that has afforded the band national attention on a grand scale. But not every audience has welcomed the Pansies with open arms. "Detroit. In the three years we've been around, I think there was only one show where I feel like the audience was really against us, and that was in Detroit," Ginoli sneers. "It's an armpit, anyway, and I come from Peoria, Illinois, so I know from armpits; it's just a really narrow-minded town."
Considering the Motor City's unemployment rate, the crowd reacted in a rather strange manner. "They threw coins at us. We picked 'em up after the show; it came to about 30 bucks' worth of change. They really didn't like us." He thinks he's Oscar Wilde, but he's Paul Lynde
Can't say anything good about anything
He flips his cigarette with disdain
You've failed to live up to his standards again
He's a negative queen, he's a negative queen.