Even though Peaches could be argued to be one of the progenitors of the genre, electroclash has always seemed to me to be one of those musical asides born of indie preening and affectation. Unfortunately, I don’t have a team of researchers at my beck and call, so I have to limit my observations to barstool philosophizing, a highly underrated method of blind, bold generalization. I can’t help but see this celebration of kitsch and the dull, sloppy, mechanized crap of the ‘80s as my generation’s equivalent of the pre mid-life crisis, a final lashing out against the way adulthood arrives with in a slowly dawning boil. Electroclash just seems so desperately nostalgic, in that sure it sucked but it was a blast way that people who’ve been thoroughly compromised by the moral erosion of growing up bray on about their Edenic delusions. I’m not panning this emotion from a position of moral superiority (I own a Thundercats t-shirt), but when applied to music I can’t help but wonder what kind of fresh regret will be generated by the ecstatic resurrection of the disposable.
Peaches is the perfect encapsulation of those first few years of radical university bravery, of bisexual benders and weekday outings to the local club, followed by mornings of bottomless coffee cups and early afternoon deconstruction. It’s the soundtrack collegiate adolescence (which, at 29, I can see no end to) that comes from reading a bit of Foucault and getting up the nerve to admit to all your friends that you masturbate a lot. If you still can’t admit that, you went to one of those laughably accredited Bible Universities where you had to leave room for the Holy Spirit during heavily chaperoned dances. Peaches talks about her crotch in virtually every song, encourages men to “shake their dicks” and toys with the incest taboo like it’s a teasing strand of Bubbleyum. She’s all the worldly transgression you’ll ever need, sassed over beats about as complicated as the metal ball in a can of spray paint.
There’s something almost self-consciously trashed about the music on Fatherfucker, like Peaches wanted to make a record that made you ask yourself “How the hell did I ever like this?” before you actually finish playing it. Beyond tinny, the beats on Fatherfucker sound like slightly more gothic renditions of the failing respirator tempos of bands like Aha. “I U She”, Peaches celebration of horny free-for-alls, has her purring over the sparest bursts of canned air. “Operate” similarly straddles the shaky sonic ground between Atari, Front 242 and JJ Fad. Even when the basslines have any kind of warmth, like the submarine dub of “Stuff Me Up”, Peaches adds a percussion sample that was probably cribbed from “Whip It”. If the sound of clacking dominoes doesn’t bother you in the least, then you might find the flatly cloaked vocals to be excessive fealty to the cheapness of bygone dance trash. Every grain of the music on this record tramps around in the worst sounds of artificiality, trying archly to reproduce the sound of a band in 1984 blowing their advance in the Caymans doing Scarface amounts of cocaine. The popped bone beat will be entirely too surfaced on one track, her voice is inexplicably remote in another, all in all I kept thinking about how I used to tape songs from my television with this ridiculously old recorder the size of a shoe box. Then, I would pretend that nothing was amiss despite the film of static and the sound of my mother calling me to dinner in the background. Frankly, I think Peaches lo-fi grime is just chum to the kind of critics who revel in posturing. She should just cut the bullshit and make a great, quirky hip-hop punk record without all the rickety pastiche.
The sense of liberation that could come from Peaches’ unboxed sexual candor wanes rather quickly. Quite a few tracks simultaneously lack subtlety and boldness, reverting to the kind of scatological shock bag you might expect from a third-rate performance artist. “I Don’t Give A” finds Peaches revving through a song that consists of her screaming “I Don’t Give a Fuck”, strikingly similar to a another one-riff wonder called “Rock N’ Roll” which finds her screeching “Rock N’ Roll” into receding tedium. This is only jolting if you’re playing it in the skate park much to the horror of your mother picking you up in the family mini-van. “Shake Yer Dix” escapes being a Naughty by Nature summer single only through its invocation of the Oedipal and Electra complexes with the line “Are the Motherfuckers ready for the Fatherfuckers?”. Other than that squeamish intrusion of an Id-bit, it’s an extraordinarily lame attempt at sexual empowerment that could stand a few lessons from Lil Kim’s first record. I give Peaches significant credit for her unpretty hussy bravado, but after awhile it begins to have the same cloying shellac of everything that Courtney Love did before plastic surgery.
On the flip side of my disdain for the record’s junkyard-electro aesthetic, there are a few moments that cause such unhinged glee that I’m tempted to smash shit. Her best hip-hop slanted numbers remind me of Princess Superstar and for that, they can’t be all wrong. “I’m the Kinda” purrs between velvety singing and hot, tight mirror mirror pants. “The Inch” hums along a driving bassline in her best impression of a house diva. “Kick It” pairs her with a somewhat befuddled and carping Iggy Pop, the doddering rocker sounding scared shitless to be dueting with a German, gender-bender who talks about getting her tits sucked. It helps that her vocals are scorching and clenched on top of a rubber burnin’ orgasm of a guitar lick. In many ways, it’s an insipidly catty collaboration, but it’s the sort of unconstrained track that she could stand to make more of. It’s a welcome reprieve from some the darker, skittering, plumbing gone amok numbers.
I’m torn. There are a few tracks that are such rip-roaring, dirty panty party tracks, that you’d have to be a committed killjoy to ignore their filthy momentum. You certainly have to give her prescient credit for the title that roles in on the “I’m The Kinda” video declaring “Queen of Electrocrap” as she prances around in a homemade cape dry humping everything within thigh shot. Cunning self-awareness rarely translates into shelflife. But for the times when that doesn’t matter, you could do a lot worse than Fatherfucker.