Look-- Teaches of Peaches was undoubtedly a high-point of its genre. Between Merrill Nisker's skeletal production, the audacity of her sexual proclamations, and her daredevil live shows, which tested every conceivable limit of good taste, prank rap had actually found a kernel of meaning-- something uniting and motivating to be found in loud pronouncements of sexual absurdity, spat wryly enough to keep too many from being offended overmuch.
But through Fatherfucker and Impeach My Bush, Peaches' repetitions drained her music of its vitality, of its initial bravado. And as her production values increased and her production methods stayed rooted to a single 909 and a few moaning synths, nothing much was left to keep an ear tuned in.
That's why I Feel Cream, despite treading too little new ground, can be seen as a welcome step forward, if a small one. The album opens in a space of pleasant familiarity. "Serpentine" is the kind of picked-clean production and sultry vocal oozing that has never gotten old for Peaches. But even on this track, her bass drums and buzzsynths reverberate in the minor key. This touch comes to bear increasingly on every track, as Peaches takes cues from eerie otherworlders like The Knife to give tracks like "Losing You" a hard, haunting edge.
It helps immensely that Simian Mobile Disco earned the production credit on most of these tracks. In every song, it sounds as if Peaches' beats have finally found a good editor-- someone to cross out the dead repetition, throw in infallible synth composition, and make each song a concise and piercing affair. Do't worry-- there's nothing overly ornate about her sound this time around. But this album at last finds Peaches using the right tools on each track.
There's still plenty of party here. In fact, "Billionaire" finds her in a startlingly adept turn as an actual MC, the beat bearing down with a furious four-on-the-floor and a syncopated flow that is above and beyond anything Peaches has accomplished on her previous albums (although, let it be known that Peaches is gruesomely shown up by Yo Majesty's Shunda K in a dazzling midsong turn on the mic). Partner in crime Chilly Gonzales gets a production credit here, and it's the album's stand-out track, a happy marriage of major label hip-hop beatcraft and winking lyriciscm.
There are missteps-- "Mommy Complex" sees Peaches going for the cheap laugh, settling back into the old sexuatropes that she wore out on her last two albums, and the single "Talk to Me" does more to reveal Peaches' shortcomings as a singer than her boldness to give it a try.
But compared to her previous work, yes, even to Teaches, I Feel Cream is her most melodic and brooding work to date. It's still dance music. She's still rapping about her pussy, about bizarre, fantastical sexcapades. But there's enough dark harmony, enough emotive moments, enough grinding buzzsaw synth and updated production here to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Peaches is growing up.