Review Summary: It's a familiar, but enjoyable session of sexy, slithering synthpop that can successfully stand out amongst an increasingly crowded scene.
Merrill Beth Nisker, best known as Peaches, has been that perfect oddity in the realm of pop. While other pop stars of the 90’s and 2000’s were going after a clean-cut crowd before wading into devious debauchery, Nisker grabbed subtlety by the balls and let loose synthpop brainchilds peppered with blatant sexual freedom. Peaches was the basket case that was often adored from afar, but was so over-the-top that few had the guts to approach her. Regardless, Nisker was able to concoct a cult following as a synthpop star, managing five albums over the course of nearly 15 years. While her best albums were some of her earliest, she carried on with 2009’s I Feel Cream
, further cementing her tones of sexual imagery and liberation. It’s the longest time we’ve been without a Peaches LP since her career began, and with the stripped away stylings of electropop now being tackled by new blood in the alternative sphere, it makes Rub
all the more interesting. It’s not the most daring of her works, nor is it her best, but it’s Peaches doing her own thing (whatever that may be), something impossible to duplicate.
Nisker’s lyrical content has always been a big part of her music. Explicitly sexual and sexually explicit, she’s never been afraid to inject the kind of innuendo and imagery that would make a 13-year-old boy snicker. As any long-time listener knows, it can get pretty damn filthy, but the rhythmic tones that Nisker uses when spouting lines like “cracking your nuts pistachio” (and other much less subtle sexual talk) is oddly hypnotic. The seductive slurring she uses in her music is complemented by melodic breaks like in “Vaginoplasty” and the album’s title track, demonstrating an incredible range that other artists in her genre have often overlooked. “I Mean Something” even lets Nisker unleash a hip-hop-esque beat along a fuzzy, pitch perfectly produced beat.
Musically, Peaches really hasn’t made many enormous changes. This is still simple, blip-blooping indie electronica, like many of her past endeavors. While that musical direction sounds too minimalist for its own good (as irritatingly demonstrated by more contemporary artists), Nisker has been confidently driving that car for more than a decade and it certainly shows. Thanks to Nisker’s daring subject matter and purposely discomforting vocal performances, the scarce melodies and limited beats work. This music is intentionally designed to slither and slide around its already edgy subject matter. “Free Drink Ticket” is a stellar highlight, with some absolutely frightening lyrics and a tone that’s stripped away just enough to make it feel eerie. “Sick in the Head” is a buzzed out hypnosis, a thick and dark electronic track. “Close Up” has former Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon providing some respectable guest vocals, though they don’t sound as different as they should and ultimately blend into Nisker’s style too much. Feist joins in for the closer “I Mean Something” to much better results, also thanks in part to a much better example of Nisker’s songwriting.
As great and defined as Peaches’ style is, though, this really is the artist’s comfort zone being treaded. The simple and sparse electronic beats are captivating, but they clearly aren’t for everyone. There aren’t as many different examples of Nisker’s vocal variety, which don’t seem to rear their heads until the end, like the disco-styled track “Dumb ***.” In an age where stripped-down electronica has become a pretty hot topic for groups like AWOLNATION, Peaches feels oddly comfortable in a genre that’s steadily eroding under pop opinion, but that doesn’t mean that minimalist beats will capture the same level of intrigue. As a Peaches album, it doesn’t have the creative charisma of her past works and sticks to captivating, but ultimately familiar territory.
is Peaches being Peaches, producing sexually extravagant lyrics and a twisted electronica serpentine. Thanks to some great lyrical content and catchy beats, Rub
manages to hold its own and live up to the same stylistic standards of Nisker’s past works. However, the trailblazing feels delayed, as very few of the early tracks have the same “grab by the balls” ambition as the later ones. Between the hauntingly aggressive (“Free Drink Ticket”) and the chiller croons (“I Mean Something”), it’s a mixed bag, and the first half of Rub
spins its wheels too much before kicking in the sex drive of Nisker’s creativity. Overall, Peaches’ defined style still feels fresh after all this time, and with so many other up-and-coming artists taking the same aesthetic directions as Nisker, it’s good to see someone so monstrously defiant still able to provide something solid. It’s not Peaches’ best, but it’s exactly the statement she needed for 2015.