Review: Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game
Published on May 1st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
I’ll come clean; I’d never previously delved into Rufus Wainwright’s well-stocked back catalogue, but having been utterly charmed by the single and title track from this, his seventh studio album, it was time to take that duck and mallet-smash it as one would a watermelon (if that is the kind of thing you get up to in your day-to-day life).
Said title track gets proceedings underway in such ridiculously sunny and easy-going fashion that it can’t help itself from sealing its own deal quite triumphantly by throwing in female gospel backing vocals and a quasi-cheesy guitar solo that just oozes good vibes. It’s instantly adorable, with a touch of the latter-day George Harrison about it, and a drum flourish at the end which introduces that particular element as a force of sheer splendidness to be reckoned with across the album. “Does your mama know whatcha doing?” croons Rufus, so thoroughly in control of the situation that you half suspect he does actually have a direct line to your mother and wouldn’t hesitate to play the concerned informant.
The ensuing “Jericho” flaunts the laid-back majesty of The Band at their best before going on to sound like a meeting of classic soul and Abbey Road Beatles, paving the way for “Rashida” to truly take the breath away with a classic (there’s that word again) swing that takes a sudden left turn into a sinister progmarch. It’s a strong early contender for song of the year, and suffice it to say if it doesn’t end up featuring in that particular reckoning then we should all be grateful for a remarkable year of music. Listen to “Rashida” immediately and spread its mischievous love far and wide!
Fluttery synths and a typically sophisticated (meltingly so) chord progression mark “Barbara” as a sort of meeting point for Elbow, early Radiohead and Sunflower/Surf’s Up-era Beach Boys, “Welcome to the Ball” could have featured on The Divine Comedy’s 2010 album Bang Goes the Knighthood so effortlessly masterful are both the songwriting and overall execution on show – great ideas + great showmanship = the perfect solo artist, after all – while “Montauk” takes its rather pointed lyrical content (“One day you will come to Montauk and see your dad trying to be evil / And see your other dad feeling lonely / Hope that you will protect him”) and drapes it over a melody of such elegant beauty that you may at first miss the track’s sinister, nocturnal underbelly. It’s even got a sort of circus organ sound that doesn’t sound circus-y in this setting, aside from ameliorating the slightly creepy edge that plays so beautifully off the sumptuous melody.
“Bitter Tears” is like a cross between ’80s electro-pop, His ‘n’ Hers Pulp and early Neil Hannon classic “Your Daddy’s Car”, “Respectable Dive” imbues a slow, jazzy shuffle with a luxurious, melancholic-yet-cheerful drunkenness perhaps as well as anything since The Kinks’ “End of the Season”, and the wonderfully lilting odd-pop of “Perfect Man” merits mention even if just for its terrific opening line of “After another production of The Flying Dutchman, I landed in Berlin”.
“Sometimes You Need” enters unassumingly before being sent hurtling skywards by a string arrangement so flooring that describing it as Sigur Rós-worthy wouldn’t even do it justice, “Song of You” takes a classic (for the hat-trick!) arpeggio arrangement into a slow-burning mini-epic in which the Pet Sounds-y bass comes to the fore, before “Candles” sees its mini-epic and proceeds to launch into full-blown epic, a slow military beat and tender backing aaaahhhhs sweeping your ears off whatever ears have instead of feet and brings Out of the Game to a close with melodic bagpipe.
I guess it’s time to explore the back catalogue.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!