The limited potential of special-interest rock seemed certain until Green Day took Pansy Division on tour with them in late 1994. The sight of barely teenaged throngs mindlessly singing “Bunnies” (“And we get our bodies all hot and sweaty and runny/Then we fuck like…”) along with the concupiscent San Francisco queercore trio gave punk’s subversive ability to provide common ground for divergent values a huge goosing. Pansy Division’s gift to mankind is an ability to invite inclusion regardless of orientation.
The basic rock produced by Jon Ginoli (vocals/guitar), Chris Freeman (bass) and a chain of drummers is serviceably mild-mannered and utilitarian — no threat to the established musical order there. The horny band’s genially explicit lyrics, however, cut right to the chase. Besides “Bunnies,” Undressed contains the sexstruck “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket,” the phallic peculiarity of “Curvature,” the straight-boy frustrations of “The Story So Far” and the explanatory dissertation of “Versatile” (“Our roles are not cast in stone/We trade off getting boned”).
Ginoli’s melodic constructs are appreciably better on Deflowered; a raunchier guitar sound gives the improved second album more punk body. The Buzzcocks aura that permeates “Reciprocate” is underscored by the album’s cover of Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien”; meanwhile, the band illustrates one source of its winsome mock-innocence in a sex-swapped rendition of Jonathan Richman’s “A Song of Remembrance for Old Girlfriends.” Otherwise, the band reviles Los Angeles in “Fluffy City,” enthuses about “James Bondage” and “Groovy Underwear,” bitches out a “Negative Queen” (“He thinks he’s Oscar Wilde, but he’s Paul Lynde”) and marvels at penis size in “Beercan Boy.” But the laughter ends in the lonely “Deep Water” and “Denny,” a bittersweet depiction of an AIDS casualty.
Pile Up, a 20-cut collection of singles and compilation tracks, is heavy on covers that seem to have been chosen for their direct or double entendre lyrical value. Songs come from Beat Happening, Liz Phair, Velvet Underground (“He’s a femme fatale”), Spinal Tap, Nancy Sinatra, Hüsker Dü, Joe Jackson, Roxy Music, Prince and Nirvana (the ribald parody of “Smells Like Queer Spirit”). The album also includes such 7-inch Pansy Division originals as “Touch My Joe Camel,” “Ring of Joy,” “Bill & Ted’s Homosexual Adventure” and “Homo Christmas.” There are undoubtedly those who will be mortified by the songs’ bluntness, but it’s hard to resist the sprightly enthusiasm of Pansy Division’s desire.
“Woke up with a morning woody/But no one’s here to share the goodies.” Wish I’d Taken Pictures gives the Pansys’ good-natured zipper-busting a sharper Ramonesy rhythm charge. The upbeat rock slop still doesn’t quench the band’s spirited and joyous taste for breathless lust (“Dick of Death”), comical dilemmas (“Pee Shy,” “Expiration Date”) or jealous romance (“Pillow Talk”). Ginoli’s singing is especially improved — he’s becoming a regular Modern Lover of sodomy. In a turnaround on the abiding hetero terror of orientation betrayal, “I Really Wanted You” glumly faces up to the impending straight marriage of an erotic object.
Before he came out, moved west and formed Pansy Division, a young Ginoli made two mid-’80s albums as the frontman of the Outnumbered in Champaign, Illinois.