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Pansy Division are more famous for being gay than for being great–their lyrics were always more radical than their music, a charged punk-pop that was addictive but hardly revolutionary. In the early 90s they were a beacon for the various emerging branches of the queer punk movement, but it’s been five years since their last album, and the new Total Entertainment! (Alternative Tentacles) arrives in a different political environment, at least on the surface: sodomy’s good and legal (but the White House is more hostile), and openly gay men are all over the idiot box (albeit as unthreatening best friends to straight girls and fashion advisers to straight boys). What’s more, bands setting their own messages (or nonmessages) to charged punk-pop have multiplied like horny little bunnies. You really have to pay attention now to catch the twist a tune like Pansy Division’s “Alpine Skiing” puts on the sexual frankness that’s standard issue for straight male rockers (though still fussed over coming from women of any orientation). On the other hand, the story line of “He Whipped My Ass in Tennis (Then I Fucked His Ass in Bed)” is hard to miss. But straight men, who last I checked still mostly run the music biz, are notorious for shutting down when pushed outside their comfort zones (c.f. all the bizarre castration anxiety beneath the surface of Lilith Fair coverage), so it should be interesting to watch how this important comeback gets spun. Meanwhile, though “He Whipped My Ass” might not strike a chord with everyone, there are universal themes aplenty running through the band’s wry, sunny music: desire and dread, hope and rejection, and confrontations at the corner of lust and death (“No Protection”). Saturday, August 30, 6 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Richard Turtletaub.