|Rufus Wainwright - Want Two|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Dan MacIntosh|
|Tuesday, 16 November 2004|
Rufus Wainwright’s nasal voice is an acquired taste, and some of the song arrangements for Want Two are more heavily orchestrated than much of today’s pop music. But if you can get past these unusual aural quirks, Wainwright may well strike you as a smart, funny and oftentimes serious songwriter.
Wainwright is an openly gay man and, with this new CD, he does nothing to separate his lifestyle choice from his art. That is why his observations about a mythical homosexual savior, on “The Gay Messiah,” knowingly draw upon gay stereotypes, such as Studio 54 and 1970s porn. But knowing Wainwright’s sexuality makes “The Art Teacher,” also one of the disc’s best tracks, a little confusing at first. When its lyric talks about just being a girl who has fallen in love with an art teacher, is Wainwright putting himself in the shoes of that girl, or did he just feel more like a girl back then and is thus speaking autobiographically? The last verse details this grownup woman marrying an executive, owning classic art and wearing a “uniformish pantsuit sort of thing,” which appears to confirm that Wainwright isn’t speaking about himself here after all. But for a while there, it makes one wonder.
If you’re currently on a steady diet of contemporary pop, much of this Wainwright music may be difficult to digest. For instance, the opener, “Agnus Dei,” is sung completely in Latin, and “Little Sister” (and many others) feature string sections and nearly operatic backing vocals. Both musically and lyrically, these two tracks fly squarely in the face of the contemporary pop music culture norms.
There are exceptions, of course. “The One I Love,” for example, is acoustic guitar-driven, and relatively folk-ish. It also includes Levon Helm, from The Band, on drums. “Old Whore Diet” tumbles to a reggae beat in places and “Crumb By Crumb” is swinging and jazzy. But most of the time, this is music centered on Wainwright’s piano work and formal vocals.
The CD is stamped with one of those parental advisory explicit content stickers, probably because of one instance of profanity, and due to Wainwright’s frank talk about sex. The package also includes a live DVD recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco, which includes tracks from the studio disc and other favorites.
Rufus Wainwright stubbornly follows the beat of his own unique drum, and such steadfastness pays off big time with Want Two.