ufus Wainwright’s self-titled debut hinted at greatness. There we had a boy coming into his own, writing some great songs, and discovering the profession of songwriter. Many of those songs showcased an uncanny musical sensibility, such mature songs coming from such a young man. The songs were grand accomplishments in themselves, the musicianship was excellent, but the production was a bit seamy; the frequent orchestral touches, on occasion, sounded a bit overblown.
Poses, his latest offering shows us cleaner (and more appropriate) production, more immediately rewarding tunes, and a more mature, fuller voice from Wainwright. The songs here radiate even more warmth and life than on his debut, whose songs were more fractured. Perhaps the increased gloss helps tie the tunes together in a truly memorable string of wonder. Rufus is an amazing songwriter in that he can combine so many genres into such great songs so effortlessly. Poses moves from vaudeville bounces to operatic soars to radio friendly pop, and that’s just the first song. "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" may just be the most appropriate opener to an album I have ever heard. These extremely enjoyable four minutes are placed there for Rufus to tell us what he’s all about, and he does it well. The song comes back at the end to close up, wrapping up a great record nicely.
One criticism of Poses is that it is too pandering, toning the songs down in favor of a broader audience. This criticism is well-founded, with a much more polished sound this time around, and a pretty popular single in "California," but though his audience may be broadening, Rufus isn’t compromising his writing, which comes through just as strong and effective, if not more.
I hope that Rufus will continue to release more brilliant records; his absolute songwriter presence is rare nowadays in a market of power-pop throwaways and poor electronic rip-offs. In Rufus, we have a brilliant prodigy and a great voice on our side.
Reviewed by: Tyler Martin
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01