Rufus Wainwright returns with his seventh studio album Out Of The Game, produced by Mark Ronson. There are certainly obvious elements of Ronson’s indie stylings on this record. The choice of the producer-du-jour seems to be a further step in Wainwright’s path towards breaking into more mainstream markets.
The album begins with title-track, ‘Out Of The Game’. It’s a jaunty pop track with more than a hint of country twang. Of course, it contains all of the opera dramatics that permeate his best tracks and harkens back to songs like ‘Between My Legs’ from 2007’s Release the Stars. ‘Perfect Man’ is the song which most obviously features the Ronson sound but there is a slight clash of awkwardness between the two styles, kind of like when Duran Duran did that Red Carpet Massacre album with Timberland.
‘Song of You’ shows off Wainwright’s vocal prowess. It’s a gentle heart-felt number which soars with determination, ‘Respectable Dive’ is pure easy-listening, and ‘Rashida’ is one of the album’s strongest tracks. It’s classic Wainwright meets the Beatles circa The White Album – an absolute treat.
‘Welcome to the Ball’ shows Wainwright’s melodic genius at its finest. It’s a brash, deliriously optimistic belt of pure joy. ‘Montauk’ finds Rufus musing on how his daughter will view him as she grows up, but ‘Closer Candles’ is one of the album’s weaker tracks. Let’s be blunt, the presence of the slow emotive accordion and bagpipes in alternative music needs to be halted and ‘Candles’ is a prime example of why.
Wainwright is the essence of an old-school pop star. His strength is in his singles rather than his albums. When he gets it right, it soars beyond anything his contemporaries can muster. However, when it goes wrong it just becomes self-indulgent to the point of unbearable. Out of the Game contains more misses than hits but the hits are sublime. The collaboration with Ronson seems to have encouraged him to temper the dramatic flourishes of songs like ‘Release the Stars’, ‘California’ and ‘Sanssouci’. However, like Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal, Rufus Wainwright was not made for toned-down. That should kept be for other less interesting performers.