October 23, 2002

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Extreme Measures

Fucking around

'MOTHERFUCKERS WANT TO get with me / Lay with me / Love with me / Uhhh riiight" – an unambiguous take on Saturday night in "Fuck the Pain Away," courtesy of a raunchy Canadian expat from Berlin named Peaches. My friend Alison – an indie rock O.G. – and I were listening to the 11-song Teaches of Peaches last week. She's 35, I'm not, and we argue about music all the time.

"What single word best describes Peaches?" I asked. "Techno," she answered, never mind 45 minutes of irony-free dirty rhyming that declared, loud and proud, the pleasures of sex. It was what I call a perfect Sebadoh moment, unless it was a Yo La Tengo moment, which is the same thing – just a piece of shrapnel working its way to the surface, collateral damage from the bad years that changed sexual expression forever. Alison's generation was the first to hit puberty after the lights went down. Fear and confusion shared space with raging hormones, and it was certain that no moves were better than night moves, because that shit could kill you. Amputees, cut off below the waist like Elvis on Ed Sullivan.

Rock and roll was born a deliberate, defiant, reckless celebration of sex, everyone was welcome, and the essential message, delivered in feelings rather than words, never got old. At least until indie rock surfaced on college campuses and broke the chain. It was all about the head, and you could call it moody, introspective, and even intelligent if you were feeling polite and why not – those kids sure sounded miserable.

These days Peaches' sound is called electroclash, a fresh marketing slogan if not a full-fledged musical style. In any case, it didn't exist when her journey began during the heyday of indie rock. She lit out for the unknown and found techno and sex in Berlin. Seventeen months ago, she performed at Bottom of the Hill dressed like a cheap hooker, sweating her ass off, and working that thing like someone was about to take it away. She attracted a solid contingent of local indie rockers, and though they didn't wear latex and leather like some of the crowd, they weren't home listening to Dinosaur Jr., either.

Peaches' lyrics are about as dumb as they are dirty, the beats are barely skeletal, and she's coming at you from Germany, a country that will never be confused with Funkytown. You could say her act is as white as rice and get no argument from me. And although she is a sex symbol in clubland, with average looks, an ordinary body, and more drive than talent, Peaches is up there being herself – and that's why it works. It's as plain as a sweat-soaked crotch that Peaches loves sex and that she allows her fans to love it too. That might be nothing special to B-boys, arena rockers, ravers, and Mary J. fans, but in some parts of town it's a pretty big deal. Of course, she had to move half a world away to jump-start her sex machine.

I'm not sure about the cultural influences that may have shaped the vision of Gold Chains, other than the usual suspects. Someone said he was Samoan; someone else said he was Italian American. He's got a new album, Straight from Your Radio (Tigerbeat), and, like Peaches, he uses profanity and slang to shape songs that are sometimes explicitly sexual. Peaches' straightforward embrace of carnal pleasure is, well, sexy and even relevant, especially if you've spent the past seven years trying to get off listening to Pavement. Gold Chains, on the other hand, is an act and nothing new, either; ghetto drag has a history and message of its own.

G.C.'s got fans, and I have to admit that the electrorap on his new disc – full of electronic sugarcoating and booming kick drums, with the star of the show on the mic – can grab your unsuspecting ass and get it moving. That's probably all that matters, especially if your taste runs toward short, bald, white-looking guys delivering sexualized Afro-parody in places where black people don't hang out. I played it for my friend Bennie who lives in deep east Oakland, and he said the record might get the golden boy's ass kicked – or laughed at anyway – in his neighborhood. Bennie tends to be dramatic, though; he thinks racist cops and dead-end living are about to make Oakland go all Rodney King.

Either way, it's no sweat for Gold Chains, because when he raps, "Get dat cootchie over here – I want to fuck it, aww yeah. Get dat cootchie lookin tight – I want to lick it all night," on "I Treat Your Coochie like a Maze," it won't be heard anywhere besides in rock clubs and on college radio. Besides, white people have always used black stereotypes to express sexual desires forbidden in their own culture, which it makes it the American way.

"Truth resides in the body," said Wilhelm Riech, the mad genius sex theorist-psychiatrist who knew a thing or two about the red, white, and blue way. He was crazy, but he was also too dirty for the United States government, and they threw him in jail for it. Peaches, meanwhile, is selling her own brand of truth, exhorting crowds to "fuck the pain away," which is all about the body for sure. There's something else for shoegazers to stare at.

E-mail J.H. Tompkins at tommy@sfbg.com.