Rufus Wainwright - Release the Stars (Geffen)
13 Jun 2007
"by the time you've read this rufus has already forced one of the most subversive pop albums ever recorded into the upper reaches of the charts..."; releases - '07
By the time you've read this Rufus has already forced one of the most subversive pop albums ever recorded into the upper reaches of the charts.
Following on from his autocratic concepts at pop operettas he has, aided by fairy godmother Neil Tennant, refined and focussed both his song writing and production into a digestible symphonetta that weaves its way into your consciousness and delivers an ideological payload into the heart of easy listening.
Opening with the decadent 'Do I Disappoint You?', he outlines the continuing (egotistical) themes of personal politics - taking direct experiences and suggesting that these seeming insignificances have wider connotations. He is perhaps, in his own eyes at least, a messianic queer whose art manifests itself into every moment of his being. Perhaps his only fault is the presumption that everyone cares that much about him. But we'll return to the faults later, for in the most part he transfixes the listener with the fantasy of his opulent existence of trendy parties, decadent hotels and apathetic f**ks.
When he works best, these themes transpose Rufus from the five star piano lounge into a wider politic. Indeed, the second song 'Going to a Town' is surely a contender for the most perfectly constructed song of all time. Seriously, it's the torch ballad that Sir Elton wishes he had the guts to write. Setting the scene with his disassociation to America and it's warped values, Rufus builds on the themes and orchestration perfectly leading the second verse to a caller response of "Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for being loved?" before referencing his earlier works attacking the myth of the messiah - developing his cruder analogies into something more palatable for the mainstream, yet all the more dangerous for it.
His voice is, as always, exceptional; lifting the more direct pop moments to an outer stratosphere of lazy brilliance - a cross between the drawl of lazing on a summer afternoon and Buckley's operatic dramatics.
The first half of the album climaxes with the thrillingly catty 'Between My Legs', which spreads like a dark forest of dangerous metaphor that infects the ears and overwhelms the listener into complete subversion.
Moving onto the odes for past/current lovers that the second half dwells on, you cannot help but to be charmed by his languid tones and wordplay, matched incredibly on 'Rules and Regulations', where the ancient metaphors of the birds and the bees are exploded with a camp mariachi brass work out.
Perhaps, the self indulgence and complacency overwhelms an otherwise spotless recording with a slight latter album lull: the sub-Lennon 'Not Ready to Love' is pleasant enough, but hardly challenges musically or lyrically in comparison to the rest of the piece. Worse still is 'Slideshow', a pointless song that seems to exclude every listener except for its subject, which is only worth hearing for the line "Do I love you because you treat me so indifferently, is it the medication, or is it me?" Thankfully it's at the start of the track, so you can hear that, then skip onto the fantastic Cabaret of 'Tulsa'. A fantastically overblown queer anthem that quotes Kiki and Herb, Lou Reed and Marlon Brando - flippantly brilliant and as enjoyable as a slab of the darkest chocolate - imagine Zorro as a washed up cocktail singer - with the voice of an angel, naturally!
This then leads on to 'Leaving for Paris No.2', a piano based lament that transcends us from such a public performance into something far more intimate. Even better is 'Sanssouci' the glamour den that made our narrator shun his stable boy infatuation for "the boys that made me lose the blues and then my eyesight..." flirting with yet more dangerous imagery - attractive because of its violence and political incorrectness - the line about the "master race" that so attracts him, is so transgressive - particularly in its positioning in such a easy song, bringing about Kenneth Anger's Nazi boy crushes and that dangerously perfect boy from the Sound of Music who suggests that "the future belongs to me".
This controversial darkness underpins the entire album, extolling the Hollywood Babylon of old on the final 'Release the Stars', a song that celebrates, and importantly acknowledges and reinstates the queers back into Hollywood history, bound by their restrictive contracts. "Can't you see all the good that celebrity can do for those in the dark?" he asks, and this successful assault on the mainstream should go someway to readdressing the balance towards a respect for those aging queens, and frustrated queers. Before he was Rufus the Baptist, now he's the true Gay Messiah.
Watch the video to 'Going To A Town' on Rockfeedback HERE.