Rufus Wainwrong

Through the wailing timpani, bass trombone and background screaming about "fire and brimstone," the central question of the opening track of Rufus Wainwright's fifth album, and first as a producer, is a simple one: "Do I disappoint you?" Oh, Rufus, it's not that you disappoint so much as you exhaust. All the schmaltzy theatrics — resembling the brassy bluster of Herb Albert covering Holst one moment and the Lawrence Welk marching band in the Macy's parade the next — seem like puffed-up retreads from the recent Want One and Want Two LPs that make us long for the understated old days. Here, there's nothing that's painted with subtlety: we get shallow whines about being "tired of America" ("Going To A Town") and the snobbish "Tulsa" that's limply cast with a lover who "tastes of potato chips," a "fat guy with the green shirt," and an autograph hound. The highlights are the simpler tunes ("Sanssouci," "Leaving For Paris") where he only tosses in a few flute tracks. But let's be frank, if you write a song about your dick ("Between My Legs"), the piped-in I, Claudius monologue (a gag done years ago by Matthew Sweet, by the way) and Phantom of the Opera quotes seem a bit like overcompensation. Disappointing? No, but certainly unsatisfying.

Nate Cavalieri writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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