Rufus Wainwright was one of the unexpected highlights of Latitude Festival in 2012, but I’ve never been able to get into any of his albums. I find them to be quite tiring and draining, with as much flamboyant emotion thrown in as possible, and his voice really starts to grate. Of all the albums I’ve heard, Poses is the best one, but it’s by no means perfect.
Poses is yet another album that starts really promisingly, kicking off with the brilliant “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk”. Here Rufus laments his various vices and addictions to a tune that could be straight from a Broadway musical, especially with the close harmonies, sweeping strings and dramatic ritardando at the end.
Much of the album continues in this vein, sounding like it belongs on the theatre stage rather than in a rock venue and, as such, it feels like you’re only getting half of the picture – it should be accompanied by visuals and this is probably why I enjoyed him a lot more when I saw him than I do on record. The drama, in both the music and his voice, sometimes gets a bit cloying too, especially on tracks like “The Tower Of Learning”.
There are times when he breaks away from Broadway and attempts different genre experiments with varying degrees of success. He’s a 70s troubadour on “One Man Guy” (written by his father) and he tries out Tom Waits blues on “Shadows” (or at least he does in the introduction), but both sound a little forced. The pop-rock of “California” is good fun though, as is the chanson-like “Rebel Prince”. And the title track, with its lyrics about unheeded warnings and the darker side of fame, is absolutely beautiful.
I blow hot and cold with this album. I really like some songs, but I find it quite a drag to sit all the way through. There are no absolute stinkers, but there are a fair few tracks that are just a bit average. And there’s only so much of his voice I can take.