“Out Of The Game” (Decca Records)
Rufus Wainwright achieved notoriety before he ever learned to walk
or talk, as the subject of Loudon Wainwright III’s whimsical ode to breast feeding,
“Rufus Is A Tit Man.”
Despite the fact that he is the scion of folk icons Loudon Wainwright III and
Kate McGarrigle of the McGarrigle Sisters, Rufus has cut a very different swath in
the world of pop music.
During his teenage years Rufus had a couple of life altering epiphanies:
That he was gay and he loved Opera, Edith Piaf and Judy Garland in equal measure.
In 1998, at age 25, he released his self-titled debut. It was both grandiose and
ambitious, winning him high profile fans like Elvis Costello and Elton John.
His sophomore effort, “Poses,” upped the ante with pure pop confections
like “Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk” and “Grey Gardens,” his playful homage to
Big Edie and Little Edie Beale.
After successfully tackling his addiction to crystal meth, Wainwright’s
output became prodigious. “Want 1” in 2003 was closely followed by “Want 2”
in 2004. “Release The Stars” shared 2007 with “Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall.”
The latter a pitch perfect, note-for-note re-creation of Judy Garland’s epic
1961 concert at Carnegie Hall.
As 2008 rolled around, Wainwright entered into domestic partnership
with Jorn Weisbroadt and completed his first opera, “Prima Donna.”
But tragedy struck when Kate McGarrigle lost her valiant battle with
cancer in January 2010. Wainwright responded as any artist would with “All Days
Are Nights: Songs For Lulu,” a grief-stricken set of songs dedicated to his mother.
In 2011 Wainwright, along with Weisbroadt and Lorca Cohen
(Leonard’s daughter) welcomed their daughter, Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen
into the world. Wainwright’s joy feels almost palpable on his new effort,
“Out Of The Game.”
Produced by Mick Ronson, (Amy Winehouse, The Like, Black Lips)
“Out Of The Game” articulates the many moods of Rufus; jubilant, sardonic
grandiloquent and self-mocking.
The title track kicks things off with a buoyant melody underscoring
Wainwright’s assertion that he’s done with life in the fast lane…
“I’m out of the game, I’ve been out for a long time now/I’m looking for something
that can’t be found on the main drag.”
Both “Welcome To The Ball” and “Montauk” speak directly to
Little Viva. The former is a grandiose declaration of parental love. Synthesizers
approximate the fluttery flugel horn riffs that recalls the Beatles’ “Penny Lane.”
“Montauk” gives Viva a glimpse of the future…”One day you will
come to Montauk and see your dad wearing a kimono/ And see your other
dad pruning roses/ Hope that you won’t turn around and go.” Wainwright is
in full operatic mien. Cresting atop the calliope synths, Wainwright trills the
deadpan lyrics in a tone worthy of a Coloratura.
With Ronson’s help, Wainwright broadens his musical horizon on
four tracks. “Bitter Tears” weds a giddy disco beat to sad, self-pitying lyrics worthy
of Morrissey… “Somebody curse the light and take me away from myself.”
“Respectable Dive” is a clip-clop countrified torch song that features
innertwining guitar and ukulele.
“Perfect Man” matches taut, Teutonic 80s New Wave with
lyrics both verbose and nonsensical….”Jenny was a pirate and Jane was
beheaded/ And Nina was a sweet nymphomaniac.”
Best of all, “Barbara” teases out a languid 70s groove
with swirling synths and “Strawberry Letter 23” guitar parts. The lyrics
offer up an oath of undying friendship, but they may as well detail
Loving Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain!
Other great songs include the percolating Doo-Wop
of “Rashida,” and the glam-tastic “Jericho” which echoes Queen
and Elton John.
Despite the joyful noise that permeates “Out Of The Game,”
the album closes with the quiet benediction of “Candles.”
Anchored by Scottish style pipe and drums, this hushed farewell to
Kate McGarrigle, is a family affair with Kate’s sister Anna on accordion
and Rufus’ siblings Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche
providing backup vocals.
“Out Of The Game” firmly re-establishes Wainwright
to the Pop landscape. It touches on his folk heritage and manages
to satisfy his Opera jones, and it feels like he’s right at home.
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