Albums Worth Listening To, Rufus Wainwright, Want One

6 Mar

“Why am I always on a plane or a fast train?  Oh what a world my parents gave me, always traveling”

Oh what a treat you’re in for if you’ve never heard this album before!  Want One is Rufus’s first of two albums where he was really trying to set up a sweeping artistic statement.  Before this, he was a talented cafe singer, and afterwards he rolled his scope back to things really made for his fans (they’re still artistic, but there isn’t the grand scope involved.)

Want One is basically a quest for that undefinable something that will provide completion.  Each song is filled with scintillating surfaces and layers upon layers of influence that add up to the most personal album I think Wainwright ever released.  We’ve got nursery rhymes, Bolero, Three’s company, Biblical allusions, a Cabaret mystery tour that searches, and wanders, myth-like through a disjointed universe that only comes in snippets.

What impresses me about this album is the focus it has, themes of disjointedness and for all the talk of relationships they are mostly relationships that don’t work out, because the relationships are just echoes of his lost state in general–the doomed quest to find the missing piece outside the self.

“So I will opt for the big white limo, vanity fairgrounds, and rebel angels.”    He feels this pressure to move forward, but he does not know what forward is, and the emotional states that Wainwright are beautiful and doomed.    I certainly understand the longing to progress, without knowing what that is, and feeling like you’re not opening some door that is there just in front of you.

Curiously, Rufus seems to thrive on opposites–he sings a song of freedom followed by a song of loss, a lullaby can climb into a mystical dirge and back to lullaby again, clearly embracing all his influences while sounding like none of them.  This album makes a little mini universe where Wainwright sits alone with his “pretty things.”

While there are high points (14th Street and Oh What a World come to mind) this whole album is a lovely maze that wanders in the wilderness, searching, searching, and ending on a rather sad note of disconnect with his father.  And while Wainwright is performing emotional songs, the emotions are never simple–more like compound emotions that have odd edges and strange gleams.   Never before and never again would he be this large and lush and devastatingly honest.

 

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