Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Thursday, 10/23/2008, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at AFI Silver
FOR THOSE OF us who spent significant portions of our gay youth banging our heads, punking out and getting ready to rock, coming out generally involved leaving behind our beloved guitar-based mayhem in favor of the disco world of gay bars and clubs.
Or just secretly jamming to AC/DC when our friends weren’t around and pretending to like techno when they were.
So the homocore, or queercore, music scene that burst from San Francisco and Seattle in the early 1990s was a loud, brash and welcome development. One of the most well-known bands to emerge was the aggressively named — but musically pop-punk — Pansy Division.
The brainchild of Midwestern boy turned California dreamer Jon Ginoli, the band took one of the most parodic aspects of rock and roll — namely, the obsession with sex that has fueled straight male rockers for decades — and turned it on its bottom with tunes like ”Fuck Buddy,” ”Homo Christmas” and ”Bill & Ted’s Homosexual Adventure.”
Subtle, they weren’t.
Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band traces the history of the group through a Spinal Tap like succession of drummers, a ground-breaking national tour opening for the then-just-making-it-big Green Day, and the bigger brass ring the band reached for, but never quite grabbed.
Even if you don’t like the music, the section on the Green Day tour is fascinating as you watch the self-proclaimed fag band suddenly playing arenas to giant crowds of teenage rock jocks — and keeping ”He Whipped My Ass in Tennis (And Then He Fucked My Ass in Bed)” on the playlist.
Other sections of the documentary play like little time capsules from a time not so long ago, but pretty far away: ”Is the song on your new cassette?” a music reporter asks. It’s a mostly breezy and positive affair — bassist Chris Freeman is a producer, after all — and it’s nice to hear them grow musically over the course of their career. Even though some of today’s out gay stars slag them for their over-the-top approach — Jake Shears, we’re looking at you — all music fans should be glad for the barriers they broke.