XL, 2009

Admit it, you’ve never listened to an entire Peaches album without giving the iPod’s next button a good work out. For all her sexual bravado,  exhilarating live energy and gender reversal lyrics Merril “Peaches” Nisker has never been much of a tunesmith.

Sure every Peaches album contained a few gems. “Sell It Off” and “Cum Undun” (from debut The Teaches of Peaches) had the thrill of the new and the profane, while her punk blues collaboration with Iggy Pop, “Kick It”, one of the few highlights from 2003’s Fatherfucker, was good unclean fun.

“Downtown” from 2006’s Impeach My Bush was a promising slab of slinky electro-pop and in retrospect a clear signpost for this disc, but there was always a nagging feeling that Peaches peaked early with “Fuck the Pain Away” (given new life recently via a hilarious Miss Piggy YouTube meme). Peaches was better as a concept, or experienced live, than on albums filled with bawdy non-songs comprised of simplistic drum loops and ’70s inspired glam rock riffs.

I Feel Cream is a game-changer. With the assistance of frequent partner in grime Gonzales (who co-writes half the songs) and with Simian Mobile Disco (who also co-write two), Soulwax, Drums of Death, Digitalism and Peaches herself as producers, Nisker has finally recorded an album that can be listened in its entirety.

Discarding the throwaway opening number the record begins properly with “Talk to Me”. Its communication theme is backed by deliciously raw electro funk which has Soulwax’s fingers (the sole track produced by the Belgian masters of indie-dance) all through its nasty core. “Lose You” and “I Feel Cream” are the most obvious branching out into new territory, crossing Summer/Moroder disco with Ladytron icy cool synths which see Peaches flex her vocal muscle, hitting some gorgeous high notes. Peaches can actually sing. Who’d thunk it?

“Billionaire” brings the smut back courtesy of a funny, if foul turn courtesy of Yo! Majesty’s Shunda K which kind of makes you wish that Peaches had outsourced more of her previous rhyming. “Trick or Treat” also is replete with nursery rhyme rapping but Peaches is wise to include a deceptively catchy keyboard riff in the chorus.

“Show Stopper” sums ups the lady’s live appeal (“I’m a stage whore/I command the floor”) in a song whose low range octave bass lines would’ve been by filled by dumb guitar riffs previously. “Mommy Complex”‘s freudisms are pretty self explanatory but the mash up of hip-hop and techno proves that like her earlier output, 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration does not make for an engaging listen.

At the onset of mid-life Peaches has finally cottoned onto the importance of melody, the role of refining rhythmic elements and how a subtler delivery can still be sexy. Perhaps realising this was her last chance to be taken seriously, and not merely being relegated as as curio of the electroclash genre, Peaches shows you can have kick ass bass lines without resorting to constant base lines.