Monday, April 30, 2012

Rufus Wainwright: "Out Of The Game" (album review)

I've never loved Rufus Wainwright.  On a personal level I find something off-putting about his attitude and persona.  That would be easy to excuse if I enjoyed his music.  Unfortunately I don't find that very compelling either.

So you may say my expectations were not high when I listened to his new studio album, Out Of the Game (out May 1st).

Imagine how surprised I was then, when the title track came booming through my speakers.  The near-Gospel number has the rarest of qualities for a Wainwright song: it's catchy.  He shows more life and passion on "Jericho" than I ever recall hearing from him before.

The influence of producer Mark Ronson, and guest musicians, including The Dap-Kings and Nels Cline, undoubtedly added to Wainwright's willingness to experiment.  As a result we get the bubbly, slightly funky "Barbara" and the groovy "Perfect Man".

Although I was saddened that "Bitter Tears" is not a Magnetic Fields cover, it was still a strong track.  The dated synthesizer that propels the song would usually be considered cheesy, however paired with Wainwright's intimate lyrics it strikes an intriguing chord.

Not everything works here, but even some of the misses should be lauded.  "Rashida", for example, has an uncharacteristic pep, despite being unfocused.

Wainwright can't help but fall back into his melodramatic ways from time-to-time though.  "Montauk" and "Respectable Dive" are typical Rufus schlock.

Out Of the Game still doesn't make me embrace Rufus Wainwright wholeheartedly, but it definitely helps soften my stance towards him.

Rufus Wainwright plays a free show at David Pecaut Square in Toronto on June 10th.

Best tracks: "Perfect Man", "Out Of the Game"

Track listing for Out Of The Game:
  • Out Of the Game
  • Jericho
  • Rashida
  • Barbara
  • Welcome To the Ball
  • Montauk
  • Bitter Tears
  • Respectable Dive
  • Perfect Man
  • Sometimes You Need
  • Song of You
  • Candles

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