Kimya Dawson says she grew up in her parents' daycare center with memories of Raffi and the Muppets dancing through her head. Yet one can only imagine the dildos that must have been dancing their way through her noggin when she helped to create The Moldy Peaches' self-titled release in September of 2001.
Some sample lyrics?
From "Steak and Chicken": "Who mistook the steak for chicken?/ Who am I going to stick my dick in?/ We're not those kids, sittin' on the couch/ Who mistook these baths for showers?/ Who fucked up that leaning tower?" The disc's tracks "Who's Got the Crack?" (Camper Van Beethoven's long lost hit) and "Downloading Porn with Davo" (choice visual: "my girl's got a dick hanging out of her shorts") made small waves with college radio and bigger waves with Tipper Gore.
But even when she was supercharging the proverbial dildos, she was doing it in good fun. In a bunny suit onstage, even.
Back in 2001, the consensus about The Moldy Peaches seemed to be, "these shitheads are so awful that they are almost good." It was Dawson and partner Adam Green wailing different verses over the top of one another and clanging through chorus after chorus on antiquated equipment while the phone rang in the background-and they couldn't have given less of a shit. Anti-folk, critics called it, and they named Dawson and Green the queen and king, un-respectively.
To explore Dawson for this article, I went looking for The Moldy Peaches in my collection but couldn't find it. I probably sold it back to the store for the $3 that, at the time, I thought exceeded its worth. It was easy to hate The Moldy Peaches before I knew more about Kimya. Before I knew about her debut solo album, I'm Sorry That Sometimes I'm Mean. Before I knew about her bone-aching rawness and her celebrated humanity. Before I knew about the fading intervals of her voice and the breaking sting of her lyrics.
The way that Dawson waxed philo-musical about cock in 2001 with the Peaches, you'd think she was headed for a Tenacious D-type industry path of comedy rock. The way that Dawson yelps about abuse and loneliness and love and childishness on her solo releases, you'd think she was the coffeeshop prophet type. She is neither-and that is what makes her far more superior to her contemporary musical peers.
Dawson's realism and deep-rooted childishness are her career saviors.
Motioning back to her daycare days, Dawson's image in 2001 became a clash of sorts. Audiences didn't quite grasp the juxtaposition of bunny suits with downloadable porn. In 2003, Dawson has become less of a contradiction-it wasn't that she grew up, she just more ably grabbed hold of her juvenility.
I'm Sorry That Sometimes I'm Mean is Dawson shut away in her childhood bedroom with a four-track and a mirror. No doubt these songs sound different in her head than in our ears, but they are no less for it. Loaded with heart and pirates and talking dolls and bird chirps and toy sirens, she strums up and down, up and down, school concert-style, until she can't catch her breath and she stops.
If you weren't careful, you'd compare this effort to a self-pitying teenage tirade, another self-inflicted martyrdom for the brokenhearted. It's not. And that is entirely its beauty. Dawson dumps the self-pitying crooner crap for a self-embracing all-ages affair. You will find no maudlin slush here.
As she says, "What I lack for in strength/ I make up for in smarts/ You keep your stability/ I'll keep my heart."