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Forbidden Fruit 

Last Lundi Gras night, I was accosted in the ladies' room at One Eyed Jacks by a woman who was, shall we say, in her cups. She aggressively touched my hair and yelled, "It's PEACHES! Are you Peaches? You look like Peaches!" Horrified, I said no, and ran out into the bar. I should have told my new bathroom acquaintance that the singer was actually onstage in the club room at that very moment and that she was unlikely to see the performance she'd paid for by lurking in the ladies' room touching strangers. It's true that Peaches is kind of short, like me; she's Jewish, like me, and so has kind of the same strong features and curly hair as me; and I think she's within five or 10 years of my age. I wasn't horrified because Peaches is an unattractive person. I was more frightened because being Peaches would be quite a lot to live up to.

The outrŽ and potty-mouthed performer is no stranger to New Orleans. She's a longtime friend of electronic music-makers Quintron and Miss Pussycat, and has joined them on tour several times (P and Q will be opening for her at the House of Blues this week and joining her for the next leg of her junket.) This past Mardi Gras, she served as the Grand Marshal of their Ninth Ward Marching Band, a group that paraded in 2006 not only solo and with the relatively young superkrewe Orpheus, but with the venerable Proteus -- a group that's exemplary of everything regal and grand about old-line New Orleans culture. An interesting spot for a celebrated and highly vocal pervert whose most well-known song -- "F*** The Pain Away" -- can't even have its title spelled out in a family paper.

Tracks like "F*** The Pain Away," "Shake Yer Dix" and her 2003 album title, Father F***er drew accusations that the diminutive loudmouth was just in it for the shock value. It's true that her generally spare, tweet-and-beep, bouncy electronic dance tracks lie under lyrics that are less than polite, but her point -- and I think she does have one -- is less to freak out the squares than to jar people into thinking differently about sex and gender. And to dance while they do it, apparently.

Some of the most outlandish expressions and phrases Peaches has coined are just inversions of pre-existing slang -- "Shake Yer Dix" instead of your hips, or Father F***er instead of ... you know. In fact, on the cover of that album, she was photographed wearing a full beard. Rock, punk and electro music -- dance music that provokes a visceral response -- are full of charged language that often makes sexual assumptions. Why not shake up audiences by switching the roles or even presenting a gender-neutral look and confusing the roles completely? It also shouldn't be ignored that she's no lyrical Simone de Beauvoir, full of deft metaphor and poetic trickery. She's blunt to the point of playground crudeness, until sexual innuendo and braggadocio sounds more like the childlike glee of learning new dirty words. It's like blowing a raspberry at sexual stereotyping. Plus, it rocks.

Peaches, who usually creates all of the tracks on her albums herself, has a current incarnation as Peaches and Herms. (With apologies, or homage to the '70s duo Peaches & Herb. We're assuming "herms" is a short version of "hermaphrodites, a subject Peaches has commented on publicly before. She finds them fascinating, and who wouldn't? They're ideologically interesting as a physical example of her highly sexed gender neutrality.) The band is an abbreviated version of the ensemble cast that shored up her 2006 album Impeach My Bush. On the album, hard-rockers like Eagles of Death Metal's Dave Catching, Josh Homme and Brian O'Conner made appearances, giving the album a fuller, harder-driving rock sound than previous releases. Even patron saint of grrl-rock Joan Jett made a guitar and vocals cameo on the raw rock track " You Love It." The group is composed of a small but all-star lineup of post-riot-grrl music movers and shakers: Samantha Maloney of Hole and the Courtney Love Band (she also has played with Eagles of Death Metal and the mighty Motley Crue) plays drums. Courtney Love's guitarist Radio Sloan lends licks here, and transgender popster JD Samson, of Kathleen Hanna's electro band Le Tigre, plays the beloved icon of '80s kitsch, the keytar.

click to enlarge Peaches combines raw lyrics and electronic music. - CLAUDIA PAJEWSKI
  • Claudia Pajewski
  • Peaches combines raw lyrics and electronic music.
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