In essence, Peaches is a woman, playing as a man who is dressed as a woman. “You’re staring at my ass / and my beard / and my moustache,” she taunts on “Serpentine,” a track from her latest album, I Feel Cream, a sleaze opus guaranteed to make even the hardest of partiers blush at least once.
Peaches has come a long way since she screamed “Fuck the pain away” on “The Teaches of Peaches.” And the world has changed too. At the time, her hard-as-nails electro sounded fresh and ingenious, and her gender-bending, boundary-breaking raps actually sounded shocking. But during the last nine years, everyone from Britney Spears to Mickey Avalon has borrowed and stolen from her once-singular persona, diluting the shock value of her antics.
Recent years have been hard. After all, how much further can you go when Gwen Stefani hits number one singing an ode to anal sex hidden behind the thinnest of metaphors? Peaches answers this question by, surprisingly, stepping it down a notch or two.
Many of the songs on I Feel Cream could almost be described as tender, in the absolute loosest sense of the world. Instead of her typical sex-addict screed, Peaches betrays some human emotion on tracks like “Talk to Me,” and especially the down-right dour “Lose You.” And while these songs might be fairly typical for most pop artists, this type of sensitivity is almost shocking when it comes from the lips of Peaches.
But make no mistake; this is a raunchy album. Even a toned-down Peaches is about five miles over the line of good taste. And that’s the whole point. Peaches isn’t so much a musician as she is a force of nature, and a deeply dedicated performance artist finishing up the first decade of her masterpiece.
Impeach My Bush, Peaches’ last album, was a bit strange. Instead of playing all the instruments and programming all the beats, she brought in some A-list talent, like Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme and Joan Jett to assist her in the recording booth. And while the album showed some sonic growth from Peaches’ comfort zone of kink and angular electro-clash, it also seemed like a poor fit. In this regard, I Feel Cream is a vast improvement. Peaches is once again a solo artist, and all the better for it.
The album shines with dirty jokes that don’t have time for a single entendre, much less two. Peaches raps about everything from which hotel is classiest to her seduction of a billionaire to licking crow’s feet to having sex through a hole in the bed sheet. And that’s just the content you catch on the first listen.
In spite of all the imitators, Peaches remains a unique persona in pop culture. Lady GaGa might swipe some of the androgyny and David Bowie-style posturing, and the Lonely Island guys and Justin Timberlake might jokingly sing about hunting for MILFs, but all of them seem like poseurs, next to the real thing. Even at 40, Peaches has got more punk spirit, more rebelliousness and a more ribald sense of humor than anyone this side of GG Allin. I Feel Cream is not for the faint of heart, and it probably won’t win any new converts, but if you can sing along to the verses of “Fuck the Pain Away,” this record has got about half-a-dozen summer jams to treasure.