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A Ring, a Ring o' Roses, An Album Full o' Poses!
Poses - Rufus Wainwright
Member Name: DanielKemp
Poses - Rufus Wainwright
Advantages: A more diverse album than Rufus' debut, some great melodies throughout
Disadvantages: Slightly inferior to his debut album
Producer: Pierre Marchand, Greg Wells, Alex Gifford & more
Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk
The Tower of Learning
One Man Guy
In a Graveyard
Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk (Reprise)
Poses is the second studio album by Rufus Wainwright. This time around Wainwright has created a far more varied and diverse offering than his operatic debut; perhaps then, it is not surprising to find that many different people helped produce and mould the shape of this record, while Wainwright took an extended stay in the Chelsea Hotel, Manhattan, New York.
Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk is Wainwright's ode to self-indulgence and the subtle addictions which rule our day to day lives. "Cigarettes and chocolate milk, these are just a couple of my cravings. Everything it seems I like is a little bit stronger, a little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me", sings Rufus, with a sizeable measure of mischievousness and curiosity. It isn't quite up to the standards of the opening Foolish Love from his debut, but all the same it is still a great listen.
But what is up to that standard is the delicious Greek Song. The musicianship is extremely adventurous and incorporates all matter of Asian instruments, but what stands out the most is the delightfully whimsical melody, which is pinned down by a luscious mandolin section.
So, the theatrics are still there, we have established that, but this time the record is fleshed out by a more rock-orientated rhythm section - enter Shadows. The forceful rhythm is provided by the straight-laced funk guitar and drum section, which is then built upon by subtle introductions of both piano and clarinet. Things reach a cinematic zenith during the multi-layered vocal harmonies, which for your information could give Pet Sounds era Beach Boys a run for their money.
California is probably one of the most easily categorised songs in Rufus' entire career. The music carries many influences derived from Americana, complete with an energetic mish-mash of acoustic and electric guitars. It is also one of Rufus' most concise songs, with a running time of less than 3 minutes 30 seconds.
The superb Rebel Prince couldn't be any gayer if it were wearing hot pants and offering you a cocktail with a little umbrella in it. Throughout, the densely textured vocal harmonies are classy to say the very least; in particular they excel during the introduction, where they are given the chance to stand all on their lonesome. I love it at the 55 seconds mark where a little piano refrain kicks in and Rufus ups his game and sings, "Where is my master the Rebel Prince? Back breaking everything, trying to get to me..."
Not surprisingly, the one cover song here, One Man Guy - which was written by Rufus' father, Loudon Wainwright III - sounds entirely different to anything else on Poses. Rather than playing down its folk music origins, Rufus embraces them and turns it into an enjoyably euphoric elegy to bachelorism, complete with enticing vocal harmonies.
Evil Angel should not have made the final cut. Allegedly written by Rufus after being seduced and exploited by a journalist in France, it is a very misguided stab at creating an uneasy atmosphere full of regret. Sure, the introduction is fine and reasonably menacing, but from there on in it is all down hill.
Things come full circle and close with a reprise of Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk. It's essentially the same song, but with a few changes made to the instrumental side of things. For example, there is now a heavy reliance on drum loops, which unfortunately seem to take away more than they add, but as the song goes on it develops further and the additional orchestration starts to flourish and come into its own.
To conclude, Poses is a fantastic second album, but it is slightly inferior to Rufus Wainwright's self-titled debut. I realise that I had nary a bad word to say about it in my review, but this was because I wanted to concentrate on the album's numerous highlights, rather than the few lowlights which bring it down a couple of points.
So, is Poses essential listening? I'd say so, yes.
Read more reviews at www.danielkempreviews.co.uk
Summary: Despite a couple of low points, still an essential purchase!