mon 15/07/2024

CD: Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game

CD: Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game

Flamboyant singer's 'pop' breakthrough wisely stays away from the mainstream

Glorious be-quiffed eccentric Rufus Wainwright

Before we begin, a confession: despite my overwhelming fondness for sensitive male singer-songwriter types, Rufus Wainwright and I have never gotten on. I recognise that famous rich, luscious voice as an exquisite instrument in its own right yet find the songs it performs too theatrical to really warm to.

It may be “the most pop album I’ve ever made” in Wainwright’s own words, but despite a big name production credit from Mark Ronson Out of the Game doesn’t come across as an album that’s trying for some sideways sidle into the mainstream. “I’m looking for something that can’t be found on the main drag,” Wainwright muses on the title track, a glorious be-quiffed eccentric in pink checks with a skull-topped cane, before a choir of big-voiced backing singers belt out some refrain about suffering.

As a performer Wainwright is charming, funny and self-deprecating. It’s hard not to be touched by “Montauk”, a lyrics-heavy ode to the singer’s one-year-old daughter. “One day you will come to Montauk and see your dad trying to be funny while your other dad sees right through me,” he sings. Closing the album, “Candles” is genuinely moving dedication to Wainwright’s deceased mother made all the more so for the room it is given to breathe.

Which isn’t to say that Ronson’s influence doesn’t make itself felt, whether it’s the part beach music, part softcore-pornography soundtrack of “Barbara” or “Rashida”, on which you can almost smell the cigar smoke as Wainwright goes for a full-on lounge singer croon accompanied by the grandiose soul horn section of the Dap-Kings. Rather than toning the theatrics down any for a more mainstream audience Ronson’s work instead accentuates and encourages them, creating arrangements that serve the singer’s eccentricities rather than tone them down.

And I think that’s the way I prefer it. With vocals buried low in a messy, forgettable mix the album’s disco ‘crowdpleaser’ “Bitter Tears” is its only true stinker. Wainwright is at his best when he is simply being Rufus Wainwright - and although I can hardly walk away from the album a fan I do so with a newfound respect.

Watch Helena Bonham Carter in the video for the album's title track

You can almost smell the cigar smoke as Wainwright goes for a full-on lounge singer croon


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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