Fifteen years have passed since Peaches chanted the wounded mantra “fuck the pain away” on her debut The Teaches of Peaches. The world has become a little more desensitized to things in the interim, which means singing about blow jobs and vaginoplasty doesn’t have the same jaw-dropping gravitas it might have once had. That’s not to say there is nothing provocative about the lyrical content found within Merrill Nisker’s sixth studio album Rub, but the shock value has worn off a bit.
We all know pop is a hypersexualised medium; witness the prima facie bump’n’grind of everyone from Beyoncé to FKA twigs via Miley Cyrus. And yet most descriptions of Peaches (aka Merrill Nisker) usually feel obliged to qualify her output as outrageous or controversial, probably because she doesn’t play the dead-eyed moll. She would much rather scare the pants off you than assume the position.
It may have been six long years since Peaches’ last record ‘I Feel Cream,’ but with the provocative, bold, unforgiving ‘Rub’, it’s like she never left. Leading up to release with “butt-plug light shows” and the sensational casting of Kim Gordon as a vape-chaining wrestling coach in the video for opening track ‘Close Up’, Peaches’ statement remains as bold and brash as ever. As you’d perhaps expect, Peaches probably hasn’t written the album of choice for when Nanna Pat pops over for afternoon tea.
When Merrill Nasker came to prominence with the classic “Fuck The Pain Away” single and accompanying album Teaches Of Peaches in 2000, this kind of gender blending, patriarchy questioning, aggressive humanism laced with filthy sex rhymes was still a niche concern. Fifteen years later, that niche is now pop music norm, Peaches’ confrontational fuck you pop manifests itself from artists as varied from the more esoteric likes of Planningtorock and the recently departed The Knife, to the vanilla pop of the likes of Rihanna, Nicki, Miley, even Taylor. That’s not to say that we’re going to hear lyrics such as Rub’s title track coda of “Can’t talk right now / this chick’s dick is in my mouth - rise for me” in the top 40 any time soon, but Peaches’ validation means that her fifth album is as salaciously lewd as anything she’s ever produced.
Back at the turn of the century, Peaches' big and brash "Fuck the Pain Away" was a tsunami. Electroclash was at its peak, such as it was, and when the sultry, leering opening line of “sucking on my titties like you wanted me” would spit out of a club PA, crowds of all orientations turned their heads. Sometimes a first impression that arresting can be an albatross, and while Peaches has carved out a substantial career for herself in both the music and art world, the straight press largely moved on.With Rub, Peaches' sixth studio album, she extends and builds upon the body of work she's accumulated in the past 15 years.
Rub is Peaches' ballsiest record to date. The avant-electro artist gave us a taste of the album with the single "Dick in the Air," which sees Peaches and Margaret Cho donning penis-adorned onesies while singing the words, "Balls balls / dick dick / balls and dick. "This is Peaches' sixth studio album since she debuted with Fancypants Hoodlum (under the name Merrill Nisker) more than a decade ago.
It may not have appeared at the top of many lists of "what the world could do with right now", but Peaches' return is as welcome more than ever. The planet could benefit from the insight of this woman and an album now more than ever. And Rub - despite its slightly odd cover - is it. Peaches' skill is covering the underside of the sexualised pop industry, which has grown from titillation to borderline dead-eye porn since she made her debut with landmark The Teaches Of Peaches, and numbers such as 'Lovertits', 'Set It Off' and signature tune 'Fuck The Pain Away' in 2000.
Part of Peaches’ appeal comes from the novelty of a former school teacher rapping about very dirty things. However, her work’s always had a deliberately transgressive subtext that’s kept her from being written off as a novelty act. Rub still includes plenty of references to bodily fluids, but unlike previous recordings where the raunch often overshadowed her anger, the pansexual orgies and butt plugs here act as a backdrop to a nasty breakup.