The drag queens were right about Peaches. Most people who heard her first album, 2000’s The Teaches of Peaches, found a funny, filthy, hiphop-slinging rock ‘n’ roll chick who understood the power of punk aesthetics. The drag queens, meanwhile, found a soulmate: a funny, filthy, hiphop-slinging rock ‘n’ roll chick with the crowd-pleasing heart of an old-fashioned Las Vegas headliner. Think of the Berlin-by-way-of-Toronto rapper as Hedwig before all the bitterness: Instead of an angry inch and a boatload of self-doubt, Peaches had hairy armpits and a ton of potential. And in Makeoverland, what’s better than having lots of potential?
On the new Fatherfucker, the former music and drama teacher (born Merrill Nisker) does dirty Vegas from the get-go. “I Don’t Give a…” opens things with raggedy samples of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” over which Peaches unleashes nothing but attitude: “I don’t give a fuck/…I don’t give a shit/…I don’t give a fuck/…I don’t give a shit/Fuck, shit/Fuck, shit/Fuck, shit!” Homegirl was never this frothy on Teachesshe now sounds as if she’s recruiting leather-thonged sidekicks for a killer dance sequence. For most punks, not giving a fuck (or a shit) is a holy activity, a constant state of purification. For Peaches 2.0, it’s more like douching. There’s a show to do.
Fatherfucker sports two other over-the-top rock tracks. One, “Rock ‘N’ Roll,” is a torrent of full-speed gutter punk that’s more feral than witty. The other, “Kick It,” features a Peaches-Iggy Pop duet that keeps the showbiz vibe rolling. Instead of toying with the traditionally brooding, intense, and complicated Iggy persona, our heroine coaxes Mr. Pop into acting like a sexually curious fanboy. “I heard you like kinky shit,” he inquires in a pinched, nasal voice. “That just depends who I’m with,” she replies. “What is it, S&M or some kind of toy?” he asks. Her comeback? “Like you said, ‘Search and destroy.’” There it is: a mini-Grease soundtrack for grimy hipsters, complete with a Stooges reference. Add a horn section and some models in diamond-encrusted dominatrix outfits and “Kick It” could be a hit on one of your cooler cruise lines.
If such hyped-up moments dominate Fatherfucker, it’s not because the message has become more strident. It’s merely a dynamics shift. Whereas Teaches provided a steady stream of prurient gags and thumping rhythms, the new album turns on unpredictability. That said, Peaches hasn’t toyed with her formula too much: On the less-rock-obsessed tracks here, the beats are still sparse and the production still uncluttered. The internal minimalist, it seems, still has full control of the external showoff the drag queens fell in love with.
The aesthetic works best on “Shake Yer Dix,” a certifiable showstopper that offers all the call-and-response fun of a porn-rap track, but with about a third of the slobbering lust. Although it’s a given that Peaches is inhumanly horny, she rarely makes any significant demands of her audience; the listener isn’t ordered to service her desires. She merely suggests, and on “Shake Yer Dix,” her first suggestion is “All you men/…Shake yer dicks.” Her second, naturally, is “You women/…Shake yer tits.” She’s obviously aware that male MCs rarely ask fellas to do anything frivolous with their naughty bits. When Biggie Smalls, for example, told players to “grab your dicks if you love hiphop,” his intention was purely macho. And when he asked the ladies to “rub your titties if you love hiphop,” it was more for his enjoyment than theirs. For Peaches, the fun is two-way. But lest the track have too much Sesame Street simplicity, she ends it on a gleefully Freudian chorus: “Are the motherfuckers ready for the fatherfuckers?/Are the fatherfuckers ready for the motherfuckers?”
In Peaches’ estimation, the answer is no. But she understands that liberation is a matter of degreebaby steps, people, baby steps. The disc’s other duet, “Stuff Me Up,” shows just how far Ms. Nisker has traveled while returning her to the semidetached vibe that made Teaches such a hoot. A relentless midtempo beat and a bottomless bass line carry her and Kitty-Yo labelmate Taylor Savvy through a sexual landscape where more is better. “Eat a cookie/Eat a big dick every day” and “Eat a cookie/Eat a big clit every day” are the twin theses, and they’re delivered in a way that’s 90 percent serious and 10 percent silly. The chorus? “I see you sittin’ and stuffin’ your face/Why don’t you stuff me up?”
The following track, “Back It Up, Boys,” takes the stuff-it-in concept a little further, as Peaches stumps for prostate stimulation. Again, she stays true to her electroclash roots, keeping the beat strong and the verbiage goofy: “Relax, it’s phat/Let me pack your crack.” This is obviously not Vegas material. But it’s not really outrageous, either, especially in an era when Howard Stern and Dan Savage are part of the mainstream media.
Peaches operates somewhere on the fringe of that class of provocateur. Instead of agonizing over sexual hangups or analyzing psychological curiosities, she acts as if crack-stuffing and dick-shaking should be expected of any self-respecting adult. For the listener, the point isn’t necessarily to do these things. It’s to be comfortable with the fact that somebody, somewhere, is having a good time at them. And that’s all that drag queens have ever wanted from the rest of us: a little breathing room to have their kind of fun. CP