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Delirious With Weird

Friday, May 28, 2004  
Someone named after a character from LoTR is downloading Britney off me
So Rufus Wainwright is re-releasing Want One because he feels it got lost during the merger between Dreamworks and Universal; fair play, say I. What’s the point in investing time, blood, sweat, tears and effort in making a record (and a very good record at that) if it doesn’t then get promoted properly, and ends up sinking to a point well below that which it deserved? “Cult classic” status may be enough for some, but Rufus is a showman and he both deserves and desires more.

And what’s more Want One should be heard by more people, because it’s a great, great record. Even by Wainwright’s standards it’s a pompous, overblown and histrionic affair but by God he does pompous, overblown and histrionic better than anybody else. It’s like Moulin Rouge properly realised, the glitz and glamour of a baroque Broadway bordello channelled through decades of rock music, show tunes, shameless classical lifts (the opening tune steals liberally from Ravel’s “Bolero”; how audacious is that?!) and Rufus’ personal struggles of the last few years, struggles with boys, drugs, parents and heaven only knows what else. He probably described it best himself when he called it a “triumphant collapse”.

Wainwright has a gift for melody and delivery thereof that makes him sound like a jar of molasses smoking a fag, perched on a velvet cushion, as if he’s making it all up as he goes along. It's ludicrous but it's incredible. He sounds like he can't be arsed and yet he's got all of Broadway exploding behind him. It's like Buckley and Sinatra- no, someone better than Sinatra, more fulsome, more given to bathos because bathos is much more affecting than pathos when it's done right, completely through overblown and mawkish and pompous and out of the other side of ridiculousness into some beautiful other country that most other people are too embarrassed to even try and get to. “Oh What A World” ends like a proper show tune, afraid to stop while the applause is still continuing, images of Rufus descending a staircase in a gold lamé suit with a tear in his eye, half from the adulation and half from being addled. “Beautiful Child” is expensive rock with fanfares and silly, enormous choruses. “Vibrate” is two minutes of beautiful fluff about a mobile phone, about Electroclash, about being too old to dance to Britney. “Go Or Go Ahead” is humble-into-boastful-quiet-into-loud-whisper-into-anthem. “I Don’t Know What It Is” and “Vicious World” (wherein the chorus sounds as if he’s sinking about posh cold soup!) are impossible melodies, as if they’d come from Sondheim and Bacharach and Lloyd-Webber all working together. Supposedly at the same time he recorded Want One, Rufus also recorded another album’s worth of material (Want Two!) that consisted of the really long, dark and overblown stuff. Good heavens. I can’t wait to hear it…


5/28/2004 10:14:00 pm


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005