There was a reason Pansy Division’s Total Entertainment felt like an anticipated release.
The band’s previous album, 1998’s Absurd Pop Song Romance, was an accomplished work, well-written, tightly-performed, insightful but not heavy-handed.
It was a damn good album.
But the five years between the release of Absurd Pop Song Romance and Total Entertainment pretty much diffused the momentum building up to the creation said album.
Pansy Division started out closer to being a gay version of the Dead Milkmen, riffing on gay themes in a comical manner.
History (i.e., old magazine articles) states the band’s opening slot on tours with Green Day forced it to grow up, which resulted in More Lovin’ from Our Oven and Absurd Pop Song Romance.
But Pansy Division decided to reign in that momentum, spent a few years playing locally, then set out again to record a new album.
As the parlance goes, the members have gone back to their roots. Too bad.
Total Entertainment pretty much sings to the choir. “Alpine Skiing” describes a bedroom technique that doesn’t really apply to a lesbian audience. “When He Comes Home” and “I’m Alright” imagine what Phil Spector would have done with a ’60s guy group.
And “No Protection” goes as far as believing in life after love in the chorus. Or rather life after refusing unprotected sex. Something like that.
On a few instances, Pansy Division attempts to write songs that speak more universally to the dynamics of relationship, gender matching regardless.
But “Too Many Hoops” and “Saddest Song” just don’t possess enough subtlety to address more than gay (white) men.
There are some hints of the more mature Pansy Division from half a decade back. “Spiral” is probably the only song in existence dealing with same-sex domestic violence, and “Not Good Enough” just plain burns.
The more serious material on the album is stashed closer to the end, but it takes effort to get through all the novelty to reach that point.
And novelty is fine, but Pansy Division has done it better before.