Rufus Wainwright - All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Rufus Wainwright - All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu

by Pete Sykes Rating:3 Release Date:2010-04-05

On All Days Are Nights, his eighth album, Rufus Wainwright eschews the melodramatic orchestration that has become his trademark and instead seats himself at the piano, producing a 'song cycle' of slow, mournful pieces. According to the man himself, the theme of the record is 'darkness' - and, of course, it's his first release since the death of his mother, Kate McGarrigle, in January. His lyrics have always been intensely personal and painful, but here he's opening up even more about his relationship with his famous mother and sister. He's sung about these things before - the record feels a bit like one of those celebrity autobiographies where they comment on happenings that have been splashed across the pages of Heat for months. It's the latest instalment of the Wainwright family drama, presented here for public consumption.

But it's really unfair of me to criticize him for this, especially since he was born to famous parents - the McGarrigle-Wainwrights are like folk's Royal Family, with Rufus their troubled Prince. What I could criticize him for is the fact that, Rufus being Rufus, he also includes three tracks ('Sonnet 43', 'Sonnet 10', and 'Sonnet 20') with lyrics taken from Shakespeare, and one snappily titled 'Les Feux D'Artifice T'Appelant' (roughly, 'Fireworks Calling'). Pretentious, Moi? I could also criticize him for the fact that all of his melodies sound the same. Or that these dirgey, depressing songs tramp along with all the energy of a dead cow. Or that, even without that orchestra, he still summons limitless supplies of cheesy histrionics, camp theatricality and showtune sentimentality.

But surely the record has qualities, since it has been so critically acclaimed? Obviously Wainwright is a talented musician - the ubiquitous piano is played faultlessly throughout - and his voice is powerful and technically excellent, if not to everyone's taste. Two of the songs on here - the jaunty 'Give Me What I Want and Give it to Me Now!' and the extravagantly schmaltzy 'True Loves' - approach bearability. And, to be fair, if you are an admirer of Wainwright - and you may have twigged by now that this writer is not - you will probably lap this record up, every hammy, overemotional second of it. But anyone who likes a bit of fun, irony, or attitude in their music will most likely be left cold. On 'What Would I Ever Do with a Rose?' Wainwright sings, with a veneer of irony masking his entirely po-faced seriousness, "What would I ever do with a rose?/ How would it ever get me high?" This, for me, sums up the trouble with Rufus - when he's not singing about his intimate problems, his struggles with his family, his sexuality or his drug addiction, his lyrics are quite mind-blowingly trite. To those with no interest in Wainwright's life, or in experiencing the utterly redundant exercise of setting 450-year old poems to music, All Days Are Nights has little to offer; to those who want an hour of emoting over some tedious and repetitive piano tunes, it may have more appeal.

Pete Sykes

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