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.
Cock talk, gender fluidity, cunnilingus, staunch feminism, transgender civil rights, and orgiastic sex parties have all been mined for material many times before on past records, but here the capricious Peaches of old seems to have resurfaced. In refusing to dilute her identity and politics for mainstream approval, the “outrageous” topics she has always embraced, now seem to be routinely discussed in the media. Mainstream pop culture is finally catching up with Merrill Nisker’s game-changing schtick. After the decidedly less ribald I Feel Cream, the minimalistic rawness of Rub appears to be a stylistic return to form, one that evokes the gritty essence of her delectably smutty debut.
Rub was recorded and produced by Vice Cooler, the queer artiste extraordinaire from Alabama, who performs under the name Hawney Troof. Peaches starred as a werewolf heroine in his monster movie homage “Lost in a Dream”, and he directed her video for ‘Mud’ off of I Feel Cream. For a year, the two of them were holed up in the garage of Nisker’s L.A. home and the outcome is an uncompromising portrait of an artist who is whipping her creative muse into shape. On Rub the beats are thicker, filthier, and the experimental production work actually seems more cohesive than many of her previous efforts. Occasionally throughout these ten tracks, a dark rage and malevolence surfaces, something that hasn’t really been witnessed since her debut.
Song titles like “Vaginoplasty”, “Dick In The Air”, “Pickles”, and “Dumb Fuck” aren’t aiming for lyrical profundity, and longtime fans wouldn’t have it any other way. In typical Peaches fashion, her rapping pairs absurd imagery with graphic sexuality, and like past recordings, there is a playful tongue-in-butt cheek vibe about most of the tracks on Rub. Two of the album’s most amusing lyrics are found within the third track “Dick In The Air”. Joined by Margaret Cho, wearing anatomically incorrect, wooly onesies, the accompanying video screams classic in the making. She purrs, “I see you standing there with a moose knuckle / although it makes me chuckle, loosen your buckle on the double”, while playfully rhyming, “Curly on top, Ralph Macchio / went down, got milk mustache – yay yo!”
From the smoldering opener “Close Up”, featuring a seductively monotone delivery by Kim Gordon, to Leslie Feist’s Middle Eastern-kissed melodic turn on closer “Mean Something”, Rub highlights Peaches’s excellent taste in collaborators. On “Vaginoplasty”, Nisker is joined by fellow Berliner Simonne Jones in a celebration of “big lips”. The singer, artist, and scientist’s piercing voice wails above a head-bobbing beat during the track’s chorus, one that curiously recalls Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. These guest-spots are always successful, but when Nisker struts out on the dance floor and growls, “At the dawn of the summer I convert to a bad girl, without a motherfucking epidural” on highlight “Pickles”, it’s readily clear who is commanding the helm of this bawdy battleship.
On the skeletal “Free Drink Ticket”, Nisker found her homicidal partner in crime with Planningtorock’s Jam Rostron. Seething with spite, she excoriates her ex with a voice Rostron has modulated down to the point where it sounds like a demon hellbent on gnawing upon the flesh of a fresh kill. Guttural, contemptuous and frightening, the track’s funereal pace may slow down the momentum of the record, but the directness of the lyrics is so refreshing, it reminds the listener that Peaches has always been more than a one-trick pony. If the murderous darkness is off-putting for some, there are always saucy lyrics like, “Circle jerk girls who spray / we got a male in the middle and we bukkake / I’m feeling good on an edible / I’m out if the hole is forgettable”, to balance it all out.
The former Canadian music and drama teacher who once glued an Abraham Lincoln-esque beard to her face and crowned the title of her second album Fatherfucker, doesn’t seem particularly concerned with courting controversy this time around. At this point in her career, Peaches the pioneer has nothing left to prove to anyone. She is still giving you the finger, inserting it where the sun don’t shine, and flashing you a shit-eating grin, but on the endlessly entertaining Rub, she seems to be having fun once again while she’s telling you to fuck off.