Rufus Wainwright - Want Two - Review
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critics' view

Never let it be said that you can't judge a CD by its cover. As a follow up and companion piece to last year's Want One, Want Two again presents us with another juicy vision of pre-Raphaelite, Arthurian fantasy reflecting the multi-faceted joys within. But whereas One's cover featured Wainwright as handsome young knight in full armour, Two has him decked out as an Ophelia-esque maiden; all Waterhousian damsel in distress. Thus, while One featured shinier, more operatic pop splendours, Two is more intimate, introspective, tentative and feminine (''The Art Teacher'' even goes as far as being sung from the viewpoint of a middle-aged woman reflecting on lost love). What is certain is that Want Two should finally put this songwriting prodigy firmly on the map.

This album still contains the lush harmonies, sophisticated arrangements and witty observations that have put Rufus' star in the ascendant. Folk, sacred medieval music,show tunes, waltzes and jazzy shuffles are mixed together with a Nilsson-like ease, while his voice balances delicately between louche, 'I'm so wasted', laissez-faire and chanson intensity. He emotes effortlessly with a camp detachment that is still fiercely brave in its gay subtext. ''Gay Messiah'' is a fine example of his tongue-in-cheek ability to mix the sacred and profane, heralding a Republican-baiting prophet '…reborn from 1970s porn, wearing tube socks with style, and such an innocent smile'.

What he is best at though is chronicling the heart's excesses. Wainwright presents this album as the culmination of his youthful experiences. It's a flowering of his talent into a more mature tool - confident with subjects as diverse as the restraints of growing up in Montreal (''Hometown Waltz''), ribald double-entendre (''Old Whore's Diet''), sibling rivalry (''Little Sister'') or a moving tribute to fellow celebrity offspring, Jeff Buckley (''Memphis Skyline'').

The latter candidly details a friendship with Buckley which initially started with professional jealousy. The truth is that of all the second generation wannabes, apart from the sadly-departed Buckley, Rufus is the one who needs absolutely no such lazy contextualisation. Want Two - wrapped in a melodic package so rich and varied as to make one giddy- will make sure that his name stands alone. Welcome to the world of Rufus the First…

Chris Jones
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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