Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In 1989, The Frogs took a chainsaw to homophobic stereotypes

Illustration for article titled In 1989, The Frogs took a chainsaw to homophobic stereotypes
Image: It’s Only Right And Natural album art

There was a period of time in the ’90s when it seemed like Milwaukee-based The Frogs were going to be one of those weird cult acts that somehow blew up into mainstream success. Thanks to championing on the part of some of the biggest rock stars in the world at the time, like Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Billy Corgan, brothers Jimmy and Dennis Flemion (and a revolving door of bass players) found themselves opening up for bands on massive stadium tours, playing Lollapalooza, and getting name-checked on MTV. Perhaps unsurprisingly, larger fandom eluded them; the group was always too idiosyncratic—too busy ransacking sacred cows and making each other laugh, and supremely uninterested in changing its sound to make it more appealing to a broader audience—to attain some larger fame.


Notoriety, on the other hand? No problem. As the new 30th-anniversary reissue of the band’s landmark 1989 LP, It’s Only Right And Natural (out now via The End Of All Music) testifies, the psychedelic punk spirit of the Flemions’ art-provocateur status somehow still stands outside the bounds of any boundaries of normal taste or logic. A “gay supremacist” manifesto of twisted lo-fi folk run through with melodies that echo everything from early Bowie to Marc Bolan to late-period Beatles, the album goes out of its way to send up the fears of intolerant gay-panic reactionaries, leaning into and lampooning queer stereotypes with a juvenile satire so lovingly earnest in its outrageousness that it was a bracing tonic to the hoary anti-gay tropes of the era. (As a self-described “homo rocker” put it when asked about the record in The Advocate, “I’ve never heard gay music like that. It doesn’t sound vulgar, just uninhibited—tall tales and whimsy, like gay campfire songs.”)

It was enough to get them publicly condemned on TV by evangelical shithead Pat Robertson, thereby exposing exactly the kind of homophobia the duo found so laughable; and like other acts that combined the silly and the serious, the lyrical absurdity may have often been a joke, but the music never was. “Lesbians are cool, straights are fools… homos are the best,” goes one of the catchiest tunes from this ramshackle assortment of warped and crude tracks, a sentiment as sweet as the luridly sexual tunes surrounding it are graphic. Nowadays, two straight men performing such music would properly get damned as appropriating culture (some tracks register as more “problematic” than others to modern ears, as The Vinyl District’s sharp assessment of the album’s queer themes notes), but as a snapshot of an era with Christian bigotry as clueless as the late ’80s, a pair of beloved out-there cult musicians spoofing the straight world’s fears of sexual otherness just sounded right and natural.