Ever since she appeared on the pre-electroclash scene in 2000 with The Teaches of Peaches, Peaches has had a hard time escaping the sonic niche she fashioned for herself. I Feel Cream, the fourth album from the queer icon, though, has been touted as a return to form. And it feels a bit like one. After two tedious, self-meandering releases, she's decided to rely on an array of trendy collaborators to re-ignite the initial fire, and when these guests decide to play the exploration game and leave their own pre-conceptions at home, it works. Unfortunately, it just doesn't happen often enough.
The album's liner notes read like a directory of contemporary "electro" (if that word means anything anymore), from Simian Mobile Disco, Soulwax, Digitalism and Terranova's Sebastian "Shapemod" Müller to Tiga's new BFF Gonzales and newcomers Drums of Death. (What? She couldn't get a Jokers of the Scene remix or graphic design from So-Me?) On paper, then, I Feel Cream should be the female equivalent of Ciao!—Tiga's recent collaboration-fueled synth pop masterpiece—but for the most part, it simply sounds like Peaches doing Peaches with more people watching.
When she plays by herself, like on first single "More"—a pulsing and self-restrained number that is perfectly produced and constructed—it can't help but feel redundant compared to her first offerings a decade ago. The Gonzales-penned "Billionaire," on the other hand, features the skanky rapping of a certain Shunda K, yet it sounds like Lady Sovereign shaped by will.i.am. (Yeah, it's that pop and that glossy, but despite all its raunchy impudence, it's not necessarily more original.)
"Relax" and "Take You On" come from the same libidinal sources: they might be all about relaxing foreplays, yet their slower, more intimate grooves can't help to feel anti-climatic, especially when the latter ends so abruptly. Then the highly talked-about "Talk to Me" is Soulwax offering their approximation of what a Peaches track sounds like filtered through their guitar-heavy vision of indie rock, i.e. not exactly Soulwax at their most compelling and current (a shame, really, because we know their raunchy brand of banging techno would fit Peaches like a new latex glove).
The best tracks are the ones on which you find Peaches where you least expected her. "Lose You" has a carefully crafted air of vulnerability, even though there is still a chance that the "I don't want to lose you" chorus is aimed at the singer's favorite strap-on. "Mommy Complex," on which Peaches somewhat predictably plays the role of everyone's favorite MILF, is jouncing pop with a fidget house edge courtesy of Digitalism, while the album's title track sees the singer reaching a career high, creating a rather perfect electro-pop moment with an old-school garage house vibe that is both dance-y and muted: It is hard to establish what parts Simian Mobile Disco and Drums of Death played, but it's hard to deny the fact Peaches delivers a vocal performance that is heartfelt and uncontrived. More tracks like these would have make I Feel Cream an absolute killer, but it is also reassuring to know her creative juices and her desire to explore new aural zones haven't totally dried up yet.
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Tracklist: Peaches - I Feel Cream 01. Serpentine (I Don't Give a ... Pt. 2)
02. Talk to Me
03. Lose You
06. I Feel Cream
07. Trick or Treat
08. Show Stopper
09. Mommy Complex
12. Take You On
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