Review Summary: The most immortal and excellently coarse album of the noughties.
There are few experiences quite as satisfying as playing "Fuck The Pain Away" in a crowded room at 3 in the morning and having no fewer than twelve people rap along to every single word, every single tastelessly drawn-out syllable. Maybe we were all intoxicated from sheer tiredness, but it was a weirdly cathartic experience. Any and all concerns that may have been on our minds at that very moment were eradicated, replaced by those immortal opening lines: "Suckin' on my titties like you wanted me, calling me all the time, like Blondie, check out my Chrissy behind, it's fine all of the time, like Sex on the Beaches - what else is in the Teaches of Peaches? Huh? What?"
It's not as if anything off of The Teaches of Peaches
quite surpasses "Fuck The Pain Away" in power or pure greatness, but really, what could? A thousand better-produced electroclash albums could never match that opening line, and not even Jenna Maroney would be able to deliver sex moans as brilliantly incisive as Merrill Beth Nisker (even if "Muffin Top" sounds like it would be a perfect Peaches track). This isn't even sex music - it's music about
sex. Gross sex. Fun sex. Silly sex. Horrible sex. You could surmise about as much, given that album cover, right? I'm just surprised that there isn't any pubic hair visible in that photo - although, with "Peaches" plastered right over what is presumably Nisker's ladybits, we're already entering some pretty damn crude (not to mention unsubtle) territory. If it wasn't already obvious, Nisker doesn't really take herself super seriously; doing so would essentially, as countless self-proclaimed "elitists" might say, miss the point. This is brazenly cheap stuff, those squishy basslines just as vulgar as Nisker's lyrics...and that's saying something.
I'm wary of Peaches' whole shtick, to be sure, yet it's just as easy to be won over by the weird charm of it all. "There's only one peach with the hole in the middle," Nisker says repeatedly on "Diddle My Skittle", which would be kinda gross and dumb if it wasn't hysterically funny. Ditto for the weirdly successful appropriation of hip-hop "swagger" on "Set It Off", which opens with Nisker rapping in that peerless monotone, "Motherfuckers wanna lay with me, get with me, love with me." Given that Nisker has worked very hard to give her stage persona a look that purposefully goes against all notions of "sexiness", her eschewal of grand feminist gestures is a welcome change from, say, riot-grrl. And in its weird way, the unabashedly obscene nature of The Teaches of Peaches
is a more effective statement of female independence and empowerment than any self-conscious "girl-power" anthem could ever hope to be. With this album, Peaches did for women what Ke$ha has done in recent years for partying - gotten rid of taboos by simply disregarding them. It's practically blasphemous to compare the garish imagery (and production) of "TiK ToK" with, say, "Lovertits", but it's hard to deny that the two songs are cut from a similar "ideological" cloth.
Of course, the reason that the repeated assurances that Peaches honestly does not give a shit about what you say, think, or do are at all convincing is because the music itself is pretty awesome in its own right. I'm not sure why The Teaches of Peaches
has never quite been respected as much as Arular
, given that both albums consist of lo-fi, minimalist beats and basslines composed primarily on a Roland MC-505. I can only assume that M.I.A.'s vague politics are a bit easier to get behind than Peaches' obnoxiously in-your-face antics, which is understandable but not by any means fair. Certainly, "Pull Up The People" simplified political struggles down to a narcotic hook, just as "Fuck The Pain Away" turned a simple come-on into a brash expression of ironic self-love, so the assumed "seriousness" of M.I.A.'s material when compared to Peaches' is a bit of a moot point. The basic experience
of a song like "Sucker" is so exciting and encourages communality, begging audiences to shout along even if they don't really know the words; it's the kind of raucous clatter that Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been aping from the very beginning (Karen O should pay Nisker royalties for "Black Tongue"). Sure, it's repetitive, and you do have to be in a mood for it. But if you let the sheer force of Nisker's aggressive sexuality wash over you, the experience is intoxicating, and, it should be said, contagious. Whether that ought to be considered a warning or a recommendation is up for grabs, but either way, The Teaches of Peaches
is, at best, a visceral listen, and, at worst, a boldly unsavory one. Which, come to think of it, is evidently the point.