As far as drag queens go, Sharon Needles isn’t exactly ordinary. She’s witchy, macabre and just generally twisted in the most glamorous way possible. In fact, glamorous is the best way to describe her music too: Her debut album PG-13 was full of euphoric pop songs fit for a graveyard, from the sparkling wall of synths of Call Me On the Ouija Board to the piano balladry of Everyday Is Halloween and the metal styling of Hail Satan!. The second time around, she’s toned things down: Taxidermy isn’t banging you over the head with horror and punk, and instead goes for a more collected, shining electro-pop sound.
The best twist is that this switch in gears is what ultimately makes Taxidermy such a compelling listen, making songs of either more extreme as the album jumps from grotesque to pretty between tracks. Glow In The Dark! is a the epitome of Sharon’s sparkling attitude, twinkling softly in a spacey pop production, singing some of her most sentimental lyrics to date, before exploding into an abrasive, vibrating chorus. It’s a production fit for any mainstream pop production, but fits perfectly alongside Sharon’s androgynous voice.
It’s even more powerful considering it follows Wendigo; a dark track initially emulating the sound of the night, with crickets chirping and bugs buzzing, before a wobbling dubstep-inspired beat breaks the calm and Sharon comes out in full force—I stuff the flesh down my throat / I pick my teeth with the bones / ‘Cause when I tear you to bits / Sop off the blood with the skin—and explodes into the chorus with a real killer line—You’re churning through my guts / Soon you’ll be my shit. Even if the vocals aren’t delivered in a growl or a snarl, the lyrics emulate the ferocity of a true wendigo, but carry the faint hint of a double entendre at times.
The album’s true shining grace is its title track. Taxidermy’s rolling percussion hook and grumbling bass synths work alongside Sharon’s glamorously grotesque lyrics—My heart has been removed / Internally dissected / Designed to be collected / Here I am posed and groomed / My flaws have been corrected / I’m your displayed investment—in a way that hints at the style of fellow queens like Miss Fame and her pursuit of beauty; relating the act of taxidermy to the pursuit of perfection and style, almost as if comparing post-taxidermy posed animals to posing supermodels or drag queens. Similar to the potential double entendre of Wendigo, but in a fashion sense rather than an inhumane sexual one.
Even on the less strikingly thematic tracks, Taxidermy is a work of art: The dubstep and money lust of Whammy, the slow burn electro balladry of Hollywoodn’t and the mid-tempo flourishes and synthetic piano of Lucy are all equally enthralling, not always as dark and demented but always carried by Sharon herself, deftly representing both the dark and the light sides that the album has to offer.
The biggest problem with drag queens releasing music is that it can often be seen as a bit of a joke, whether intentional or otherwise, by those unfamiliar with the scene. Taxidermy, however, is an entirely serious pop affair: Powerful, engaging and featuring Sharon’s best work to date. True to her love of plastic surgery and taxidermy, it’s nothing short of perfection. Sharon’s out for blood, and at this rate she’s definitely going to get what she wants.