Friday, May 11, 2007

Release The Stars - Rufus Wainwright

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I was never what you could call a fan of Rufus Wainwright. In fact I found him over-posturing and pompous and felt that the few good songs that he's come up with can in now way compensate for the over-wrought amateur dramatic feel of most of his work. Even a liking for his sister Martha, which led to me trying again in terms of Rufus, didn't help matters.

But then he turned up on last year's Pet Shop Boys live album, Concrete. And he turned Fundamental's real dog of a track (Cassanova In Hell) into something rather quite special indeed; in fact it was one of the highlights of the live set. Of course the news that Neil Tennant would be some sort of executive producer on this album meant that I was always going to give it a try, but I have to admit that I am quite impressed by what I hear.

It's true to say that the grand sense of theatre that surrounds Rufus Wainwright is still firmly in place. Never one to use a couple of instruments when a whole orchestra can be fitted in this album does indeed smack of a Broadway production soundtrack. The thing to note however is that it does sound like a VERY GOOD Broadway production soundtrack.

Do I Disappoint You drips with melodrama, whilst Tulsa manages to make magic out of nothing more than a gentle piano melody and a cacophony of swirling strings. The more simple, or more normal, moments can stand out as well; Going To A Town may be lyrically the most aggressive or angry that Wainwright gets but it's simplicity helps to hammer home his message. It's also a lot cleverer than most of the anti-American/anti-Bush pop songs that we're force fed and as such gets its message across a lot more effectively than the rabble rousing likes of, for instance, Pink ever could.

If there's one problem with it it's the lack of a "show-stopping" foot-stomper; the closest he comes is Between My Legs which manages to mix heavy electric guitars with an almost Mowtown esque backing vocal to great effect and is perhaps the one track on this album that screams "hit single" (as long as you don't pay too much attention to the ever-so-slightly risque lyrics).

It's certainly not going to be for everyone, but there's little doubt in my mind that it is a fantastic album. And that's not something ever imagined saying about a Rufus Wainwright album.

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