Release the Stars
The more I survive through life’s travails, the more I accept that the key to understanding women–straight and culturally appreciative women about my age–requires the careful and complete understanding of the movie Dirty Dancing, J. Jill mail-order catalogs, and the music of Rufus Wainwright.
Nevermind that this triad of cryptic combinations also happens to unlock the secrets to the 2007 Gay Agenda™. That’s not so much a paradox as it is a mere coincidence to be discussed at greater length perhaps some other time. On his latest album to date, Release the Stars, Rufus Wainwright shows up in full form, choosing not to throw any curve balls, and instead masters his signature sound. More specifically, he exploits to great affect his quiet piano and soft vocal drones, which inevitably lead to an emotionally charged orchestral build-up and eventual dissipation. He’s previously explored operatic territory like this before on songs like Go or Go Ahead on Want One, but this time around it inexplicably feels more polished and mature.
Songs like Tulsa could be the real sleepers in the mix because of their hidden insights. Married men in particular ought to pay particular attention to the tiny details, as something akin to a wife’s private thoughts may be revealed.
You taste of potato chips in the morning
Your face has the Marlon Brando club calling
And then the thought that I owe it all to Tulsa
And that fat guy with the Queen shirt that we both signed together
I think it’s the obvious psycho-sexual dynamics combined with a higher degree of testosterone and a deeper sense of not caring what anybody else in the world thinks, which may be making Mr. Wainwright a more empethetic songwriter to everyday women than, say, Paula Cole. That’s quite a feat in its own right, actually, but one which I promise hasn’t influenced my score.
True to form, there’s an evident somberness to much of the album, which brings about a mood of quiet reflection. On Going to a Town, it’s almost too easy to see the singer writing the song in his notebook, perhaps on some rain-filled day as he gazes out the Eurail window making his way into Rome or Barcelona.
I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down
I’m going to a place that is already been disgraced
I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down
I’m so tired of America
Clearly, the openly out songwriter has had the shits with six years of George W. and the Wal-mart culture who elected him. But true to form again, tiny beams of light also abound. Particularly on songs like Between My Legs, a seemingly Elton John inspired guitar romp, Wainwright sounds more steady and comfortable than ever.
In fact, the standouts are too numerous to mention and the accomplishment seemingly too easy to pull off without giving due credit. And as for the complicated route of understanding the female species via a gay man’s intimate songwriting–it may not be that revealing, or even theoretically worth a damn in the end, but the music itself is anything but a wash.