For those unfamiliar with Pansy Division, they have nothing to do with the 2006 Portuguese World Cup team. I know that if I wasn’t aware of them, that would have been my first thought. This foursome has nothing to do with soccer, however, and everything to do with an unapologetically homosexual lyrical approach to the kind of punk rock the Buzzcocks made prevalent some 30 years ago.
Formed in 1991, Pansy Division were one of the first musical acts to come right out and admit to being gay. Not that their lyrical content and song titles left much to the imagination, but 15 years ago, in a less tolerant era, it meant a lot to the gay community to have a band like this be so open, and so forthright with their sexuality. That’s not what got this band notoriety, though, at least not entirely. The fact of the matter is that they have always written some air-tight pop-punk songs.
The Essential Pansy Division is a CD/DVD combo that spans their entire career, with 30 tracks on the CD and half that on the DVD, enough PD content to last you quite a while I’d assume.
“Anthem” is the song that exemplifies this band better than I could myself, the lyrics put into perspective both their own career and the era they started in, all the while keeping everything in an extremely playful manner; "We’re the buttfuckers of rock ‘n’ roll, we wanna sock it to your hole / With loud guitars we’re gay and proud, we wanna get you with your pants down / Closeted rockers we’ve heard of a few, they won’t risk their careers to come out to you / We have no such deceptions no such ploys, we make it clear we wanna sleep with boys." Keeping with the fact that these guys were playing punk music, their content was brash and irreverent. Now, in 2006, most people have been so desensitized that none of this would be shocking at all, but for that time, having a song called “Dick of Death” or “James Bondage” was a sure way to become outcasted and ostracized. It seemed to only fuel Pansy Division, however, because as the years went on, a lot of their lyrics became even more out there and in your face, just adding identity not only to the songs themselves, but the band as a whole. Sure, “Boyfriend Wanted”'s bouncy groove is a great contrast to the balls to the wall approach of “Alpine Skiing,” but in the end, their way of vocal expression is what set them apart in the punk scene.
Let’s not forget the DVD that accompanies this CD however, as it has plenty to add to the package. The first portion of it is a collection of 8 music videos, from songs that spanned a good portion of their career. Though poorly made, the point was gotten across, and that point was blatant homosexuality. The images in these videos was certain to ruffle some feathers when first released, but behind all that, there was still great music. And in keeping with that theme are the two live segments included, each with four songs to share. The first was taken from a 1994 set in Chicago, where the band played a massive stage in front of thousands of people. The bouncy nature of the music could be seen in the crowd as well, as songs like “Fuck Buddy” and “Versatile” had seemingly the entire crowd jumping. The second set, filmed on a sound stage in Milan, was a much different performance both in scope and overall feel. Playing in front of no more than 30 people, the band downplayed the energy a good deal, but still, in typical Pansy Division fashion, brought their a game for all four songs.
Socially ahead of their time, Pansy Division still stand today as one of the more noteworthy, and unfortunately, oft-forgotten punk bands of the last 15 years. Let this collection serve as notice to all who’ve missed out; the time’s come to realize that this band was more than just funny songs about penises (penii?) and sex positions, they were the gay Ramones.