Wainwright, Rufus : Poses

Follow-up to expensive debut. Rich in beauty

Sweet but deadly, the world of Rufus Wainwright. Full of love that offers fleeting epiphanies and lasting aches. Chocolate that tastes beautiful, but makes you fat. Drugs that take you higher but fracture your mind. If he had a signature pose, it would be reclining on a couch, lost in a poetic, melodramatic swoon.
‘Poses’ is Wainwright’s second LP, and it sees him displaying splendid musical finery. Not afraid to over-egg a potentially sickly pudding, the 27-year-old’s songs have inspired orchestral flourishes and run from light electronica to huge piano balladry. Kept on the rack by his own indulgence, it’s easy to imagine him alone in a poet’s garret – a garret with room for a string section.
In this respect, at least, Wainwright is part of a great tradition. Certainly musical quality runs in his veins (he’s the son of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III), but he operates on a far more lush and grand scale than his parents ever did. The Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks has worked with him, while his debut LP was an epic tale in itself, costing $750,000 to make.
But what price money, Wainwright seems to be asking, when you have a vision? Like the works of other great swooners from Cole Porter to The Divine Comedy, ‘Poses’ is held together by its maker’s maniacal attention to detail and conceptual strength. A series of snapshots that find Rufus in a number of attitudes – listing his vices in ‘Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk’, admiring his new leather jacket in ‘Poses’ – the songs that comprise this album chart his doomed experiences in the most select of the world’s [I]demi-mondes[/I], and do it with great melodic drama. He’s a sponge, not a stone, and if he fails, then he has reconciled himself to failing in style.
Which, as master of the audacious stroke, he hasn’t. An exercise in self-mythologising, ‘Poses’ leaves us with the impression of Rufus Wainwright he wants us to have: romantic, talented, handsome, and tragically alone. Except for the timpanist, of course.

John Robinson