Now 40 and on her fourth studio album, Peaches has long resided over a fringe genre of intelligent feminist strip club music, occasionally attempted by upstarts like Uffie, but never bettered to date.
Perfect timing then for this latest offering, as a new breed of interlopers such as La Roux and Little Boots are jostling for electro pole position.
Amidst the sea of ’80s throwbacks, I Feel Cream sounds positively progressive. Relax borrows from the menacing sparsity of dubstep while Talk To Me is a synth-laden glam rock song which Lady GaGa would want to make if she’d listened to less Madonna and more Joan Jett.
Peaches does not reinvent the disco ball. There is nothing here that is technically new. But each pre-existing formula is given an interesting twist, a slant which elevates it way above the very first Casio bleeping of In For The Kill. Serpentine and mid-album track More flirt heavily with stripped back early electro but subvert and distort, ending up with something infinitely more interesting than the other ’80s raiders.
Serpentine opens the album with Peaches mumbling darkly about being “past electroclash” over an abrupt bass line and staccato drum stabs. More almost turns into a full on, hands-in-the-air house behemoth, but Peaches purposefully, conspicuously avoids the cumulative snare/high hat build-ups you need for that sort of crazy dance floor euphoria. Strange for one infamous for rapping about her tits, but it seems that these days Peaches prefers to keep a little bit back, maintain an air of mystery, and these songs are less obvious and more interesting as a result.
So for all this talk of recycling, it seems that there are aspects to this album that are new – for Peaches. Yeah, OK, she doesn’t “give a fuck if you follow me” on Serpentine (listening, La Roux?). But there is very little actual fucking on this album. In fact, Lose You is a love song – a cold, ethereal, early Garbage sort of love song, but a love song nonetheless.
Elsewhere, there are still louche raps to be found and some smirk-inducing lyrics – “never go to bed without a piece of raw meat” – but the tone is suggestive rather than confrontational and the beats are more VIP room in a uber-cool Berlin club than Spearmint Rhino with a woman named Crystal.
I Feel Cream has an assured maturity which remains even when Peaches fully embraces the filthy. The title track is a gorgeous, sexy, laid back house tune which swoops around the central melody. As the vocals get filthier, the beats get glitchier and it still consistently exudes class.
The production is a balancing act – not an ounce of fat but each song still smacks you in the face. Think Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. “Never over-produced” spits Peaches at the end of one song. The trick to being an enduring electro sex pest superstar is knowing what to fuck with and what to leave out.