Rufus Wainwright is not your average singer-songwriter. His various projects have ranged from camp and light-hearted (his live tribute to the music of Judy Garland) to serious culture-vulture type activities (composing an opera and setting Shakespeare’s sonnets to music). Perhaps the most famous of his songs is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, included on the soundtrack of the film ‘Shrek’. You’d think that he’d have made more of an impact on popular culture than he has.
Unfortunately, the sheer range of Wainwright’s projects has made him rather an acquired taste. He is yet to produce an album with broad critical and popular appeal. This should all change with his latest offering, Out of the Game, which is, simply put, a big, old-fashioned pop album.
This shouldn’t really be a surprise, given that Mark Ronson is on producing duties – it seems that most things he touches turn to commercial gold (there’s a case for calling him the mainstream Steve Albini). However, Out of the Game is not crammed with the usual Ronson bells and whistles (which are actually horns and trumpets), instead aping the comfortably kitsch ‘70s sounds of Steely Dan and Harry Nilsson.
The title track is as lush and flowing as anything else Wainwright has written, and touched with a hint of eye-rolling cynicism that sets a tone of mischief for the first side of the album. ‘Montauk’, by contrast, is an elegant rumination upon the subject of parenthood and family, accompanied by rolling arpeggios on the piano, which could have been lifted from 2010’s ‘Who Are You New York?’. The most surprising moment is undoubtedly the bagpipe solo at the end of the guitar-led ‘Candles’. Normally, this would sound out of place, but Rufus makes it work.
In short, this is Rufus’ chance for a huge hit and a classic album – here’s hoping that this record gets him exactly what he wants.