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Five or six years ago when it was The Thing, I listened incessantly to electronic music in all its picayune varieties trip hop, trance, house, drum and bass, ambient and it never once struck me as music to fuck to. (Music to smoke dope to, sure. The highest praise one could offer electronic music was, "We've gotta get high to this!") It was too cold, too sleek, cyborg-y. In fact, charisma is what electronic musicians seem to want least. The members of Kraftwerk, the pioneering, early-'80s German electronica band, were rarely seen in the flesh; instead, computerized mannequins appeared on their records, in publicity stills and even on-stage at their live concerts, taking care of all the knob-twiddling and fan adulation for them. More recently, the French group Daft Punk announced on 9-9-99 that they had become robots. (Okay.) Even for most young people, no knob-twiddler is never going to be the new Al Green; it's aural wallpaper for MTV promos and the occasional car commercial.
Which is why a potty-mouthed diva like Peaches, the self-described "horny bitch" of the German electro-punk scene, is something like a revelation to my ears. She's an unlikely sex symbol, what with her pale, sleep-all-day complexion, frizzy 'fro and a wardrobe that's more softcore '70s than ghetto-fabulous. And despite having starred in a self-directed super-8 porn film, Chromezone XXX, which she's shown at several indie film festivals. But listen to her album or see her in concert, where she's famed for screaming, "Are you ready to get fucked up the ass?!" and working her audiences into a frenzy, and you'll soon understand why the thirty-four-year-old former Canadian school teacher is making so many so wet so suddenly.
"Sucking on my titties like you wanted me/ Calling me all the time, like Blondie/ Check out my Chryssie Hynde behind/ it's fine all of the time," Peaches raps over a booty beat less than a minute into her debut album. "Like sex on the beaches . . . What else is in The Teaches of Peaches?" To answer her own question, she offers an assortment of triple-X ditties like "Lovertits," "Hot Rod" and "Cum Undun" minimalist tracks with a simple electro-beat garnished with a few catchy hooks, over which she drawls naughty nothings like, "Some say I keep my self-respect hidden in my cervix" and "Come diddle my skittle, 'cause there's only Peach with the hole in the middle." Imagine Lil' Kim on Sprockets, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez channelling East Berlin hausmusik, Daft Punk on a triple dose of Viagra, and you start to get the idea. (Sample tracks from her album are downloadable at her label's website.)
What's appealing about Peaches, aside from the witty rhyming of her lyrics, is that even her beats have charisma. They're scratchy and homegrown, indie rock?style crunchy, grind-y and viscerally sexy. It makes me think of eight-tracks and wood-panelled basements and musty shag carpeting and naughty things I did when I was in the third grade when my friend Paul came over to spend the night. We took turns holding up a megaphone as if it were a video camera and danced around naked, pretending to film each other. The sound quality has the budget aesthetic of a porn video. Just as punk was a reaction against disco, electro-punk is a reaction against electronica's clean, overproduced sound. Peaches has applied the principles of lo-fi to a quintessentially hi-fi music. Best of all, Peaches is an auteur she writes and performs all the music and her one instrument is a Roland MC505 Groovebox.
And her timing seems perfect. Ass-kicking third-wave feminists unafraid to unleash their pussy power have been around for a while. We've had stripper chic, stripper backlash, stripper chic redux and The Vagina Monologues all over the place. Bonafide lesbians, starring in a feminist porn video, won the coveted AVN porn award for Best Female Video this year. It seemed inevitable that someone would ask when the women in electronica were going to show up for the party. "I'm only double-A but I'm thinking triple-X," sings Peaches in her perfect monotone. Take that, robot boys.
Albert Lee and Nerve.com, Inc.