Sharon Needles, PG-13 (self-released)
Sharon Needles is the biggest thing to come out of Pittsburgh since a Penguin. And if those red claws she’s flashing on the cover of her debut LP, PG-13, don’t dish anything about a certain disappeared synth-pop spider, your cassette collection has some serious holes in it. What matters, though, is that whether Needles is dredging up vintage Ministry with sneaky allusions to With Sympathy or from covering “Everyday is Halloween” — it’s sexy.
Rather than dripping black and getting all breathy, the album’s better moments rely on surface sheen and pop gloss. Whether that’s what anyone was expecting from a Sharon Needles album — like we were kind of hoping for smeared-eyeliner art hiss, because we’re snobs — Warhol’s ghost is doubtlessly looking on from somewhere, coyly nodding. But even if this PBR princess having a thing for those six-foot cemetery holes assumes that she might be a little more into depth than other drag queens, just leave that mess for your cultural studies professor.
Trashing-up and dumbing-down whatever’s been happening in the Top 40 with a sassy alphabet recital, “Call Me on the Ouija Board” is such a self-aware shimmer that of course it’s throwing pop back at itself. Unlike those old Ministry tapes that throb over with all of that bass to make getting dirty and sweaty with whatever’s standing next to you even easier, PG-13 is keeping itself cool, sly, and surprisingly collected — like that wallflower book and maybe those soup cans, most of Pittsburgh’s cultural exports have at least something to do with square pegs, and Sharon Needles was already a part of that before this thing anyway. But if she’s using such a clean album to give face while creeping under white picket fences like those claws might be foreshadowing, never minding anything like hotness, that would be so punk.