audiotrack Rufus Wainwright

reviewed by Carey Potash

Published in Issue No. 24 ~ May, 1999

If you’re not sure just how gifted singer/songwriter du jour Rufus Wainwright is, skip right to "Barcelona" off of his aspiring debut self-titled release. It says it all. Every once in a while a voice comes along that is so unique and special that it delights yet perplexes music reviewers because they have no one to compare it to. Hence, Rufus. The gene pool has gotten crowded and piss warm lately. Jakob Dylan (father Bob), Emma Townsend (father Pete), Chris Stills (father Steven), Adam Cohen (father Leonard) and Sean Lennon (duh) have tossed their collective hats into the ring to see if they can ride their fathers’ namesake into the sunset with record deal in hand. Of course they can. Ironically, Rufus, with the least known musical parents of the bunch, has more talent growing in his long, bushy sideburns than the others combined. Rufus, the son of folk musicians Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, has an unparalleled voice that travels through his nose and hums like a cello.

His debut is blowing critics away with his gift of melody and measure. His sparse piano arrangements and theatrical tone embrace his affection for opera and cabaret. Rufus bravely litters confessions of his lifestyle throughout the record. "Beauty Mark," a quirky brothel pop ditty, sends a message to his mother:

I may not be so manly, but still I know you love me

Even if I don’t have your beauty mark

Again in "Imaginary Love," amidst prodigious piano work, Rufus confesses,

Every kind of love, or at least my kind of love must be an imaginary love to start with

Guess that can explain the rain, waiting walking game

"April Fools," which is earning radio and video play, is seriously snappy and hard not to sway along to. The tongue-in-cheek pop song’s video opens and closes with Rufus as the nucleus of an orgy of beautiful women. April Fools. Get it? Right now, the only Rufus you may know is the yapping Labrador from across the street, but that will soon change. Trust me on this one.