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Alternative Tentacles celebrates Pansy Division's 25th anniversary with Quite Contrary, an unforgettable collection of hook-filled sing-a-longs. This latest album continues to mix clever lyrics with catchy melodies while giving a sober look at themselves and where they are now.
Starting back in 1991 in San Francisco, singer/guitarist Jon Ginoli and bassist/vocalist Chris Freeman shared the experience of not only being outsiders for being gay, but also for being gay punk rockers. By turning their alienation into music that defied the stereotype that gay men preferred pop divas and show tunes, Pansy Division would go on to become beloved underground music legends.
Also featuring guitarist/vocalist Joel Reader (The Mr. T Experience, The Plus Ones, The Avengers) and drummer Luis Illades (The Plus Ones, The Avengers), Quite Contrary is the perfect follow up to 2009's That's So Gay. Tackling topics such as New Year's reflections, phone addiction, aging barflies, dating apps, and flaky guys (an evergreen Pansy Division theme), this latest release provides a glimpse at the struggles of modern life both with Pansy Division's trademark grin and a sense of determination.
Quite Contrary sums up everything great about an astonishing 25-year career, including reuniting the original cover models of the classic 1996 album Wish I'd Taken Pictures, showing them 20 years later - quite contrary to the forever young imagery of mainstream gay iconography -a fantastic look into the social and personal frustrations we all face today. Pansy Division evolves with the times, gaining new depth while staying true to the sound that made them so special since day one.
"With fun, simple guitar riffs and roots in the birth of what could be considered a rather niche genre, Pansy Division offer a nostalgic trip back to early pop punk with their seventh studio album, 'Quite Contrary'.
Formed in 1991, Pansy Division are the most popular and commercially successful queercore band since the genre's creation in the 80s. It's easy to see why; their music has a more accessible feel compared to the likes of aggressive Limp Wrist or Team Dresch, and their albums have an element of humour which allows a more light-hearted listening experience.
'Quite Contrary' is strongly inspired by early pop punk, with the trademark warbling vocals and upbeat, guitar-led tracks. These somewhat cheerful vibes give the impression of a band that doesn't take itself too seriously, and aren't afraid to stay true to their old-school sound. The second track, 'Love Came Along', is a crude (yet oddly sweet) love song, a strange mix between outrageous and romantic, and tracks such as 'You're on the Phone' and 'I'm the Friend' offer tales of relationship struggles and frustrations.
This is not to say that Pansy Division don't touch on the more serious aspects of an LGBT+ identity. 'Blame the Bible' is a raucous rant about the effects of religion on gay people and those who "just don't fit in". It's deliberately controversial, suggesting that getting rid of the Bible completely is the way to eliminate prejudice, and (while still giving off a blasť tone) hints at a degree of bitterness that is certainly not unfamiliar in this particular genre. Similarly, the themes in 'It's a Sin' aren't unusual in the LGBT+ community, which describes the feeling of shame impressed on gay youth from society."
- Gig Soup
"'Quite Contrary' is filled with catchy songs like opening track "He's Trouble", the unabashedly sweet "Kiss Me At Midnight (New Year's Eve)", the Pet Shop Boys cover of "It's A Sin" or the Social D-like "My Heart Aches For You".
Like a lot of their fellow Lookout labelmates, Pansy Division always had a knack for taking the same approach as the Ramones by beefing up 60ies girl group style melodies. It's a treat to see that hasn't changed. As a result, they ended up with an album that is a lot of fun to listen to while also bringing a message to the table that is still as topical as it was when they first started out."
- Punk Rock Theory
"Pansy Division's contribution to the fight for LGBT equality has traditionally been to write lyrics with graphic details about gay sex to force the straight world into dealing with the realities of homosexuality. Over the years, Pansy Division have taught us a lot about gay male sex, and taught us colorful new terms we might not have known about otherwise. "Alpine Skiing" comes to mind as a particular favorite of mine. But on Quite Contrary, the boys have gotten a little older and mellowed out a bit. The second track on the album, "Love Came Along," essentially sets the scene for the rest of the record, as the band that once told us that people who claim to be looking for love are really looking for "sex, sex, sex, sex" now eat their words as they sing about falling in love, settling down with one man, and giving up the promiscuity of younger days. Quite Contrary might have gotten its name for this very reason, because it's an album that's focused much more on love than on sex, as well as on growing older, as evidenced by the song "(Is This What It's Like) Getting Old."
Despite growing up a bit, the band's sophomoric humor remains, such as the little skit in the middle of "You're on the Phone" which almost ruins an otherwise wonderful song. Pansy Division biggest flaw is that they never seem to feel comfortable unless they're making people laugh, which is a shame because they're always successful with more serious material. "Blame the Bible," the album's first single, reminds us that, everything else aside, this is a punk band, as the band gives the most angry political diatribe of their career, and literally call for an end to all religions. Its (forgive the pun) spiritual sibling song, "It's a Sin," packs a pretty big wallop as well.
Even though the album can devolve into silliness at times, it's still a pretty strong effort. I always like it when a band can admit that they've grown up and even grown old, especially in a genre as youth oriented as punk. That takes a lot of courage, and Pansy Division show a lot of that on this album. And where their previous work sought to teach us that sex songs don't all have to be about heterosexual sex, Quite Contrary does the same for thing for love songs. In a time where hate is growing and spreading in this country, the reminder that all people love, just in different ways, is something we all need to keep in mind."
- Punk News
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