Double Helping of Rufus
It's Christmas, which as well as the season of goodwill is the season of cunningly timed re-releases, this new CD from Rufus Wainwright combines his two acclaimed albums, 'Want One' and 'Want Two' in a handy format with two bonus tracks.
'Oh What A World' launches us into Rufus' delightful world of brass charm and classic, sweeping strings with Ravel's Bolero announcing itself enthusiastically from behind Rufus' lilting lyrics. It's not so much elegant as climactic and finely choreographed to sound ever so slightly awkward; Rufus' world is nothing if not resonant of the real world.
'I Don't Know What It Is' is a more conventional warming piano and vocal-based number with awry vocals, "Is there anyone else who wears slightly mysterious bruises?" that hide beneath the swirling melody. 'Vicious World' loses a little of the pomp and swagger of the previous tracks and musters a simplistic, beautifully composed melody that twinkles sweetly along. Similarly 'Pretty Things' plays on the depth of vocals and brings out the fragility that lies in Rufus' vocal range, a traditional piano ballad that sweeps you away with its key changes and stirring lyrics, "I need these pretty things around the planets of our phase". 'Natasha' runs along in a similarly weepy-eyed vein with a precious, minimalist tune that chimes with bitter sorrow.
'Movies of Myself' carries a little more vigour in its striding guitar riffs with Rufus taking a more charismatic rock n'roll crooner role. Whatever part he plays, Rufus' rich and sumptuous vocals certainly take centre stage and you can imagine his emphatic live performance being a wondrous sight.
Masterpiece, 'Go or Go Ahead' is a tentative 6-minute wonder that seems to move in slow motion enveloping more and more sweet sounds before building delicately into a massive, stunningly orchestrated epic refrain. 'Beautiful Child' is another powerful, breezy tune that plays with a rich, vibrant vocal chorus and dancing rhythm section. At the other end of the scale, 'Vibrate' is about as off the wall as you can get, with the bubbling musings about a phone on vibrate, oh well, whatever turns you on Rufus!
The last few tracks, 'Dinner At Eight', 'Want' and '11:11' all have a slightly soporific but elegant quality that leaves you calm and relaxed before you move on to the second CD: - 'Want Two'.
'Agnus Dei' kicks off 'Want Two' with some cello scraping, first of all I wonder if the CD's faulty and destroying my player, but I quickly realise this is just part of the tune, and Rufus' strange sense of off-kilter arrangement, or perhaps just humour. These agitated strings give the whole piece a tense, eastern flavouring. 'The One You Love' has an atmosphere of bohemian ease beneath its catchy, mesmeric pop.
'Little Sister' takes on baroque airs and graces with a waltzing orchestral tune skipping beneath Rufus' sharp lyrics, which would no doubt have horrified baroque sensibility and there's a definite sense that Rufus would delight in such offence. 'Gay Messiah' is certainly telling of Rufus' rough and overt honesty, "No I won't be the one/ Baptised in cum", the coarse lyrics married to the easygoing, lilting tune are an odd affair, but it's on of the key tunes on 'Want Two'.
'The Art Teacher' is a flurry of guitars and lamenting vocals that makes for a stark and eerie listen that's one of the most noticeably powerful songs on this album. 'This Love Affair' is a brooding, tense number full of angst and agonising vocals that pirouette over the pacing piano.
An elegy to fellow emotional songwriter Jeff Buckley, 'Memphis Skyline' shimmers with emotion and spellbinding soft piano chords. 'Crumb By Crumb' opposes this fragile eulogy with its lackadaisical, carefree chirpy tune, while 'Old Whore's Diet' calls in Mercury Award 2006 winner Antony for vocal duties. It's a slow-building, dramatic affair with rippling guitar chords that suddenly explodes into a glittery, aching exotic refrain.
Now the moment you've been waiting for: the two all new bonus tracks! 'Chelsea hotel No. 2' is an upbeat guitar-based tune that could be reminiscent of the simplistic, but resonant melodies of Dylan, until the blunt lyrics, "Giving me head on the unmade bed", which remind you that this is very much Wainwright. It's a stripped down but passionate number that carries more weight than some of the heavily instrumental tunes on the 'Want' albums. 'In With The Ladies' is a brisk fiery waltz that caps off the album in grand style.
'Want One' and 'Want Two' certainly compliment each other with a little more sophistication greeting the latter's forlorn tunes such as 'The Art Teacher' and 'This Love Affair' but the Rufus' charismatic easygoing tunes and theatrical showstoppers making an appearance on both albums and drawing them together perfectly. This double album is sure to appear in the stocking of delighted fans this Christmas, but it would also act as a great introduction for those who're less familiar with Rufus Wainwright's work, although it may be a bit of a stretch for the casual to listen to both albums back to back, especially after Christmas dinner!