After COVID quashed touring for much of 2020 and 2021, we seem to have collectively agreed that anyone celebrating a significant album anniversary could do their victory lap whenever they damn well pleased. Of course, Berlin-based Canadian musician and artist Merrill Nisker has never asked for or needed anyone’s permission, not even before she dropped her 2000 debut album as Peaches on the indie scene 20 (ahem) years ago. The Teaches of Peaches stood out for its unrelenting sexual frankness and became one of the defining documents of the electroclash boom of the late 90s and early 00s; “Fuck the Pain Away” and “AA XXX” straddled the underground and mainstream to make dance floors in clubs of every caliber horny and hazardous. Defiantly filthy, sly, and playful, The Teaches of Peaches was a statement for a generation shaped by riot grrrl, homocore, and Queer Nation. Move over, cock rock—the clit is it.
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Peaches has continued to push boundaries in her songwriting and in finding new ways to combine her passions for music, performance, and sexual freedom. In Berlin in 2010, she debuted her one-woman show Peaches Christ Superstar (a stripped-down spin on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that’s as loving and earnest as it is campy and subversive), and in 2012 she released the semi-autobiographical musical Peaches Does Herself. She also sells a signature massage oil via her website. Her sixth and most recent full-length, Rub (2015), features guest appearances by the likes of Kim Gordon and Feist, and it’s as raunchy as anything Peaches has done, holding its business open like a sheela-na-gig—she refuses to fade into invisibility and decorous middle age. Last year, she took on the pandemic and U.S. politics with the hilarious single “Pussy Mask” (Third Man), which she released with a ridiculously fun animated video that has to be seen to be believed.
On her Teaches of Peaches anniversary tour, Peaches performs the record in its entirety with a jaw-dropping visual spectacle. Twenty-plus years since its release, the album doesn’t just hold up as entertainment—I’d argue it’s more important than ever. Peaches lit the torch for so many artists who’ve emerged since, and the hysterical overreaction to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s 2020 hit “WAP” proves her music still has the capacity to shock. Right-wing culture warriors will always attack reproductive autonomy, protections for sex workers, and the right of self-determination for everyone across the gender spectrum, but with her message to live freely, authentically, and sexually in one’s own body, Peaches drowns that shit out.
Peaches Sophie Powers opens. Sun 8/21, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, $35-$149, 18+