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Rufus Wainwright | Poses | review | indie | alternaitve | rock | Lollipop
by Tim Den
Where do I start? All the child-prodigy, gay man opera-made-pop spiel aside, how do you analyze/pin down someone as musically vibrant and characteristically flamboyant as Rufus Wainwright? Do you talk about how his knowledge of ragtime - of great melody architects like Berlin and Joplin - and opera have made his piano playing and songwriting one of the most unique and intricate mixtures of melodrama and drunken heartbreak? Do you start by telling personal stories of how this man's debut record was the soundtrack to the first time you fell in love? Of how you used to croon along late at night, droopy-eyed and broken-spirited, when that record was the only thing you had left after First Love fell apart? Nah... let's not even get into that. Rufus Wainwright, with my sentimental attachment as bias or not, simply knows how to pull listeners in. He has taken opera's tragic sense and play-by-play timing into a more pop-friendly format without losing the emotional impact, and he makes deep tenors sound cool.
He continued along this route for his long-awaited sophomore effort, Poses, but decided to drag a few unexpected surprises with him this time. Now I'm all for experimenting and stretching limitations, but I get the feeling that the potential of many of the tracks here is somewhat hindered by the man's new found interest in drums ("Tower of Learning") and - goddamnit - happy-sounding tunes ("California," "One Man Guy"). Granted, these new directions he has chosen aren't bad, just not... suicide-inducing like we want 'em to be. Where's the droning sleepiness? The aching yearning? The tales of drug-related romance and death? The closest Poses gets to the debut is opener "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" and the title track (both of which are worth the entire disc alone), but maybe not sounding like his debut is what Rufus wanted. Okay, Poses isn't really that far off from his usual, I just wish it was more consistently masochistic. There, I said it: I wanted him to hurt me. Plus, c'mon, there's just no need for the ultra cheesy funk beat/porno-guitar-mixed-way-too-loud in "Shadows." Eech.
All in all, Poses is worth your while (after first getting the debut, of course). The sly feel of "Millbrook" lives again in "Rebel Prince" and "Grey Gardens," the dark symphonies of "Damned Ladies" have been transplanted onto "Evil Angel," and the ghost of early Tom Waits has been evoked for closer "In a Graveyard" (how appropriate). Rufus' voice is as seductive as ever, and you simply won't find anything more musically rich than his works. Besides, I might learn to love this one as much as the first... all I need is a girl to come along and trample me again.