It always spoils our delicately manufactured stereotypes when a famous musician's offspring turns out to possess a modicum of talent themselves....
IT ALWAYS SPOILS OUR DELICATELY manufactured stereotypes when a famous musician’s offspring turns out to possess a modicum of talent themselves. Yet another hapless Lennon is much easier to assimilate and dismiss than a truly gifted Buckley; those born with a silver plectrum in their tiny privileged fists are such fun to sneer at.
Rufus Wainwright is one of those contrary bastards who buck the trend. Son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus was immortalised (and possibly traumatised) whilst still breast-feeding by his pathologically jealous and indiscreet father in his song, ‘Rufus Was A Titty Man’. No coincidence, then, that the adult Rufus – who’s gay, ironically – has produced an album diametrically opposite in tone and texture to his father’s frail confessionals.
So ‘Rufus Wainwright’ is floridly impersonal, grandiosely arranged and a million starry miles away from gnarly ‘roots’ music. Like the upcoming albums from Mercury Rev and Plush, it takes inspiration from the bigger picture of American popular music: rock’n’roll is less of an influence here, on suave and ornate ballads like ‘Foolish Love’, than Broadway musicals, Gershwin, Cole Porter and the brilliant California maverick and Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks – who orchestrates huge tumbling string sections on several tracks.
Predictably, he also has the less attractive tendency to be too overwrought and naff – [I]”Damned ladies of Orpheus/Your arias cause a stir in my sad and lonely heart”[/I] is as bad it gets. But as long as he can turn out a song as joyfully cynical and memorable as ‘April Fools’ from time to time, I guess we can forgive Wainwright the odd lapse into fragrant self-consciousness; it goes with the territory, after all. [I]Even [/I]better than Jakob Dylan’s Wallflowers, it’s safe to say.