Rufus Wainwright’s seventh album Out Of The Game comes after a recording hiatus in the singer-songwriter’s career. Life moved into the space where his recording used to be with his engagement to partner Jorn Weisbrodt, his new baby, Viva, and the death of his mother, Kate McGarrigle. He had also created the creatively immense opera Prima Donna. So there was no real rest to speak of!
The first and also title track of the album hooked me easily. I found I enjoyed being carried by the carefree rhythm and listening to the snippy lyrics. I’m not sure I should say it was catchy, but it had that hook that a good popular song has and an easy, sentimental vibe. Why do I feel that Wainwright would be reacting with disdain to my comments here?!
“Montauk” is a lullaby that Wainwright wrote for his daughter. I heard a futuristic sound in this track that made me visualise a space age kid and a robot. The two-beat snare that starts the track “Barbara” will be familiar to Amy Winehouse fans as it is also at the start of “Love is a Losing Game.” There is a ’70s pop soul feel to this album and it made me think of Leo Sayer, Elton John, and Pan’s People. I have a feeling that Wainwright would probably hate this too?! However, there is a renaissance taking place for the sounds of the ’70s and ’80s. Just look at the popularity of Gotye, Grimes, and Michael Kiwanuka at the moment.
It has been said that Wainwright is attempting to fit into the mainstream with this album. Perhaps by having it produced by Ronson, you are going to get this type of appraisal. Maybe Wainwright does have a desire to be more accessible. However, I do think that Ronson has done a very clever and intricate job of not overstating his sounds or giving the album the hard edge that his work can sometimes have. I can see why Ronson calls it a work he is very proud of. It is intricate and layered like a Wainwright record, but funked up and futurised like a Ronson record, with all of these elements beautifully blended.
In the press release for this album it states that the tracks blend Wainwright’s wry wit and lyrical narratives with classic pop pleasures. I hear those elements in it, but I also feel it has a sense of release about it too—a letting go of fears. I also hear in it the sense of appreciation of small things coupled with the expansive wonder that you get from being a parent, as opposed to the self-focused reactionary that one can sometimes be as an artist.
I am coming to this review as something of a newbie to Rufus Wainwright. I have to admit that I was attracted to this album after hearing it was produced by Mark Ronson. The only thing I would say is that I think that the title track stands out as a pop song in an album of futuristic soul ballads, but I will definitely be listening to this album some more. I liked it. A lot.