A look at acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard charts. This week: Peaches, Aesop Rock and Give Up The Ghost.
DIRTY PEACHES: There's an element of performance art in the sex-obsessed electro-rap of Peaches. In concert she dresses like a Hooters waitress trapped in 1984, with skin-tight pink outfights and an unkempt perm. She screams her rhymes over pre-recorded music, struts in front of explicit cartoons and teases her audience with girl-on-girl action.
With her over-the-top live show hard to capture on record, her 2000 debut, "The Teaches of Peaches," sometimes felt more like a tour souvenir. Released on Kitty-Yo records, the set eventually became an underground sensation thanks to the party anthem of "F*** the Pain Away," but it was on the road where Peaches won people over. During the past three years, she found herself touring with such diverse groups as Queens Of The Stone Age, Bjork and Chicks On Speed.
"People think when I'm playing live it's all about my machismo," Peaches recently told Billboard. "But it's just me giving 200%. I can't do it any other way. Joan Jett also scared people. So did Pat Benatar in her own way. And let's get one thing straight: I love Pat and Joan."
Indeed, her sophomore effort, "Fatherf***er," released in the U.S. on X.L. Recordings/Beggars Group, opens with a loop of Jett's "Bad Reputation." Peaches screams four-letter words over the minute-and-a-half sample, which plays like a karaoke routine run amok. It isn't exactly going to help Peaches shed her performance art tag, but it gives her fans the ironic, dance-inducing smut for which she's known.
Elsewhere, she collaborates with Iggy Pop on guitar rocker "Kick It," and her simple rhymes tackle issues of sexual identity on "I U She," "Operate" and "Back it Up, Boys." Musically, Peaches essentially offers various takes on Salt N Pepa's "Push It," but that's not to say she doesn't have social and political ambitions. Take the name of the new album, for instance.
"The term 'motherf***er' is so over," Peaches told Billboard. "It's used every day by everybody. You would probably even call your mother a 'motherf***er' -- and it would mean absolutely nothing. But 'fatherf***er' is an incredible word. It's time to put them on equal terms."
"Fatherf***er" arrived at No. 35 on the Heatseekers chart, giving the Canadian-born artist her first appearance on any of Billboard's tallies. The album also arrived at No. 33 on the magazine's Top Independent Albums chart.
Peaches will be touring the U.S. through the end of October before heading overseas to support Marilyn Manson. Look out for the artist to breach the mainstream, as she is slated to appear on Pink's upcoming Arista album, "Try This."
UNDERGROUND BITE: New York-based working class rapper Aesop Rock returns this month with "Bazooka Tooth," the first album on which he handles most of the production duties himself. Yet the new release shows he's learned some tricks from his Definitive Jux labelmates.
His thick, nasal delivery is matched here with dense, oddly arranged rhythms. While his musical backdrops aren't always instantly catchy, Aesop Rock is more interested in mirroring the sound of New York than he is in getting the room shaking. The dark, unpredictable beats that frame "Bazooka Tooth" attempt to capture the sometimes-unfavorable sounds of city life, and owe a heavy debt to Definitive Jux founder El-P.
The latter handled much of the production duties on Aesop Rock's 2000 effort "Labor Days," which gave the rapper an underground following with its sharp attacks at office life. His second for the label, "Bazooka Tooth," is broader in its targets, with cuts such as "Frijoles," "11:35" and "Babies With Guns" examining how the media and pop-culture shape daily life.
Even though Aesop Rock was the one manning the boards in the studio, Definitive Jux labelmates such as El-P and Mr. Lif guest on "Bazooka Tooth." The latter appears on album centerpiece "11:35," with its images of rich rap kingpins inter-spliced with those of an over-qualified data entry worker struggling to pay rent.
"Bazooka Tooth" arrived last week at No. 112 on The Billboard 200, giving Aesop Rock his first appearance on the big tally. The album entered at No. 1 on the magazine's Heatseekers chart, and bowed at No. 44 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally. Previously, the artist had only appeared on Billboard's Independent Albums chart, where his "Daylight" EP entered last year at No. 15.
Aesop Rock has tour dates lined-up through the end of November.
SCREAMING YOUR WAY: Like the Blood Brothers and the Locust, Boston hardcore act Give Up the Ghost provides short bursts of extreme noise, mixing punk riffs with metal guitar lines and intense screams.
Formerly known as American Nightmare, Give Up the Ghost has earned a heavy following on the East Coast for its relatively melodic hardcore and thoughtful lyrics. The band has toured with the likes of Glassjaw and Poison The Well, and has grown into one of the more hyped acts on the underground punk/metal scene.
The band's debut Equal Vision album, "We're Not Down Till We're Underground," was released two weeks ago and was preceded by a pair of EPs. Neither EP reached Billboard's charts, but it's a different story for the full-length.
The album entered Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart at No. 48. Sales, unsurprisingly, were heavy in the Northeast, and "We're Not Down Till We're Underground" bowed at No. 4 on the regional New Artist Albums tally, one of the magazine's unpublished charts, available to subscribers in Billboard.com's Premium Services area.
The band tours constantly and has a U.S. jaunt lined-up through mid-November. In December, the group will head overseas.