Albums: Rufus Wainwright

Poses, Dreamworks
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The Independent Culture

There's something almost heroic about Rufus Wainwright's persistently anachronistic manner. Heroic, but intensely irritating. It's not just his languid, cabaret-crooner vocal style, or the way that the tunes to songs such as "Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk" and "The Consort" seem like refugees from some Broadway musical. It also has something to do with the middle-class American affection for European Culture apparent in the references to Parisian cathedrals in "Tower Of Learning", the guide-book fulsomeness of "Greek Song" ("where beauty is existence"), and the title track's high-minded talk of having "...fallen from classical virtue". Listening to Poses, you could be excused for thinking you'd stumbled into an updated stage musical version of a Henry James story. Which might not be a bad idea in itself, but doesn't make this follow-up to Wainwright's eponymous (and ridiculously expensive) 1998 debut any more appealing. Swathed in strings and over-egged arrangements, these songs are mostly small ideas or observations inflated beyond their optimum pressure, and as a result they just float off, insubstantial, fading from one's radar as the last notes die away. I was left thinking how much better ­ and wittier, and more inventively ­ The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt does this louche, world-weary cabaret thing; now, imagine what he could do with a $750,000 budget...

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