Her thing is whatever
she happens to be doing. She does a lot.
BY STEPHEN DEUSNER
Peaches is long past giving a fuck what you think of her. Of
course, crucial to her persona has always been the appearance of not giving a
fuck what you think about her crotch shots, mullet, outrageous stage attire,
smeared eyeliner, or austere beats, but now she really seriously doesn’t give a
fuck And judging from her new album-the predictably ballsy, conceptually
playful I Feel Cream-really seriously
not giving a fuck suits her better than the appearance of not giving a fuck.
It’s hear mantra on the Spartan banger “Serpentine”: “I don’t give a fuck if
you’re calling me / I don’t give a fuck if you’re mauling me,” she half-raps,
“Serpentine, serpentine / never a straight line, serpentine.” She doesn’t give
a fuck if you make a joke about Peter Falk in The In-Laws either.
“I used to be very concerned with people knowing me as a
musician,” says Peaches (nee Merrill Nisker), “but now I know I’m a musician
and I know I make great albums.” This realization has given her greater license
to expand the Peaches persona into a multimedia project. “Now I don’t really
give a shit about music. I’m an artist. I’m whoever I want to be. If I want to
make installation art one day, if I want to make a movie another day, if I want
to put on a theater production, that’s all fine with me. I’m Peaches. I can do
what I want. I’m not bound to music.”
Such a bold statement may seem particularly ironic
considering that Cream is arguably
her most inventive and diverse-in short, her most musically assured-album since
her 2000, The Teaches of Peaches.
It’s also the one that most balances sexual and musical provocation. After the
relentless self-pleasing electrothump of “Serpentine,” she lures a full backing
band from the dance floor to the bedroom on “Talk to Me,” pointedly singing,
“This ain’t the Peaches show / It’s just me and you.” Is her persona slipping?
Is that Merrill Nisker talking? Doubtful. Peaches is just having fun with the
expectations her previous exploits have instilled in listeners, toying with one
of the most artfully constructed alter egos since Marshall Mathers’ alter ego
(Eminem) got its own alter ego (Slim Shady).
But the first real surprise of Cream is “Lose You,” an aching anthem that shows off Peaches’
considerable vocal chops. “I’m quite a good singer,” she says, not boastfully
but as forthright as someone asserting empirical fact. “I’ve always chosen not
to sing too much on my albums because I didn’t want to be in a singer category,
especially on my first two albums.” Wait for it. “But now I don’t really care.
I can do whatever I want. If I want to sing, I sing. If I want to rap, I rap.
If I want to collaborate, I collaborate.”
Just how much of this newfound no-fuck-giving independence
is a hard-won new phase in her career, as opposed to further execution of the
Peaches concept? It’s difficult to say, and Cream would bear it out more if her previous albums weren’t so similarly dismissive
of public approval. And yet, these songs feel much less aggressively
transgressive than those on Teaches or especially the errant Fatherfucker,
which doesn’t suggest a softening so much as a resignation that you either get
it or you don’t. Instead, Cream is
more musically than sexually confrontational, emphasizing sonic hooks like the
Princely synths on “Trick or Treat,” the Möbius strip couplet that anchors
“Mommy Complex,” or the shifting accented beats on closer “Take You On.” And
then there’s “Billionaire,” a post-Madoff banger that pairs Peaches with Yo
Majesty’s Shunda K. Rhyming about kinky hook-ups in modestly priced chain
hotels, they devise the year’s first great hip-hop shout-out: “Best health
care!” “It’s my answer to the financial crisis,” Peaches explains. “You can
still fuck like a billionaire even if you can’t be one.”
In addition to Shunda K, Cream features contributions from Gonzalez, Simian Mobile Disco, and Soulwax, among
others. They give the album its impact and range, but Peaches may have had ulterior
motives in hooking up with them: “These are people with really good gear,” she
admits, “and it’s really fun to go into their studios and find out all about
this old equipment.” Yes, Peaches is a gear nut, and she has a fetish for old
equipment. “I like the look of it,” she admits. “I like to turn knobs. I don’t
really like clicking. I like the real thing.”
At the top of her game, Peaches is surprisingly dismissive
of music, although less as a medium than as a business. “The music industry is
a bunch of crap,” she exclaims. “It’s shit, and it’s going down hill, so why
would anybody want to stick to that? I don’t want to rely on anybody. I just
want to do my thing.” Her thing is whatever she happens to be doing, and she
does a lot. Currently, she’s working on an installation commemorating the
anniversary of The Teaches of Peaches,
in addition to various DJ, guerrilla theater, and performance art projects.
“I just enjoy being
creative,” she says. “It’s ridiculous just to make music when there’s a lot of things
you can do in this world. It doesn’t make me less of a musician if I do other
things. It just makes me more of a well-rounded person and more of a creative
person. And probably makes me make better albums.”
Maybe she gives a fuck after all.