33:43 min • Lookout! • March, 1993
On the surface Pansy Division’s Undressed seems like any other punk album: it clocks in at around half an hour; it has often snotty lyrics; it’s bass, drums, guitars and vocals; and it’s three-chord garage rock ‘n’ roll. But dig below the surface and you’ll hear the sounds of a gay rock ‘n’ roll revolution.
Led by guitarist and vocalist Jon Ginoli, Pansy Division burns through thirteen songs about the ups and downs of gay life in a no-strings-attached way. There are no metaphors, no hiding, no coded lyrics; this is out, loud and proud.
Of course, many people will gravitate towards the faster tracks on the album, the explicit (and funny) ‘Bunnies’, a jumping two-minute punker about having copious amounts of sweaty man love. ‘Fem in a Black Leather Jacket’ and ‘Hippy Dude’ are both cuts about love for looks, and to hell with personality. A favourite on the album is ‘The Cocksucker Club’, one of the funniest songs I’ve ever heard about coming out – no drama, no big scene, just finally admitting that you’re ready to join the ‘Cocksucker Club’.
Along with the punk burners on the album, Jon and boys have provided the ultimate tribute, a Ramones song reworked into a queer rocker. The Ramones track is ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll High School’, but here Pansy Division has reworked it into ‘Rock and Roll Queer Bar’. The band keeps the light-hearted feel of the original, but instead of singing about high school, Jon Ginoli sings about the rock n roll queers he’d love to pick up at the gay bar. It’s a tribute done as only Pansy Division can.
But these guys aren’t one trick ponies and many of the cuts on the album show a strong melodic side not traditionally associated with punk rock. For all his celebration of debauchery and defiant pride, Jon Ginoli takes the time on a few tracks to dig a bit deeper. ‘Boyfriend Wanted’ for example, combines a mid-tempo musical feel and melodic guitar sound with lyrics about all the one-night stands he’s had and now he wants somebody he can really feel for, somebody who’s not just a cheap piece of ass.
It’s not all deep and serious with the more melodic songs. ‘Crabby Day’ is a light-hearted jaunt about the consequences that sometimes come with romps in the bedroom: the protagonist wakes up from a night of passionate love and finds himself crawling with the crabs. A serious subject and something nobody wants to have, but in this case, Jon Ginoli and the boys have a laugh on it, telling the audience “Leave me alone, I’m having a crabby day.”
It’s the closing song ‘Anthem’ that really nails this album and puts it on the wall of legends. This is the most defiant, in-your-face gay pride song ever written. The music is a thumping three-chord assault from and the lyrics are up-front and unapologetic:
We´re the butt-fuckers of rock & roll
We wanna sock it to your hole
With loud guitars, we´re gay and proud
We gonna get ya with your pants down.
I also love what Jon sings in the first verse:
We can’t relate to Judy Garland
It’s a new generation of music calling.
Pansy Division wanted to bury the old ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ sentimentality and stake their claim as the new kings of gay music. I would happily (gaily I suppose) vote ‘Anthem’ as Pride Song of the Century.
It’s the defiance and frankness of the lyrics that sets this album apart from the catalogue of “gay music”; up until this point, most songs catering to a gay audience were soaked in metaphor and coded lyrics, artists singing of a dream world where there are no more closets, no more barriers and everybody is out and free. Of course, they sang about this in metaphors so they could get their message across and still remain commercially viable. If you think I’m lying on this one, I can tell you right now that ‘YMCA’ by the Village People has nothing to do with the Young Men’s Christian Association.
Pansy Division just came right out and sang it. There was no hiding. It’s explicit gay sex, loneliness at times, and fierce pride.
The music itself is also noteworthy; the “gay music” scene is sadly lacking in rock ‘n’ rollers. Sure, we have a few. David Bowie claimed he was bisexual in the ’70s, there’s Lou Reed from the Velvet Underground, Freddie Mercury of course and Rob Halford of Judas Priest. But by and large, the music catering to the gay crowd has traditionally been predominantly pop oriented (or show tunes) and that continues to this day – after all, Lady Gaga sold about two million copies of Born This Way. But Pansy Division stood above the rest as the first gay rock ‘n’ roll band, they said it clearly, “With loud guitars, we’re gay and proud”.
This is a landmark record for all these reasons. This is a loud rock ‘n’ roll that GLBTQ people the world over can take pride in. Jon Ginoli and the boys smashed down the barriers and proved that cocksuckers can rock loud and hard with the best of them.