Album Review: Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules

Rufus Wainwright is back. And, honestly, it is like he never went away. If anyone thought the eight-year hiatus since Wainwright’s last ‘pop’ release might have led to him sheepishly creep back into the lime light, they obviously don’t know Rufus Wainwright very well.

Unfollow The Rules is vintage Wainwright. At times grandiose and bombastic, at others subtle and delicate. It runs the gamut of his repertoire, including huge showtunes like ‘Damsel in Distress’, intimate ballads like ‘Only The People That Love’, and some tracks which straddle the line between those two seemingly irreconcilable genres (e.g. the appropriately absurdly named ‘This Ones for the Ladies (That LUNGE!)’).

Whilst this has officially been announced as a pop record, there are touches of the theatrical scene which Wainwright has spent so many years working in. There is a touch of the operatic about some tracks and the album is apparently split into three acts. The latter is an artistic decision which, truthfully, adds very little. But still, we are ‘unfollowing the rules’ here, so a little pretentiousness can be forgiven.

Exactly which rules are being ignored is not clear. Though lyrically more mature, by Wainwright’s standards there is nothing particularly ground-breaking here. That is not a criticism, because the record will immediately be recognised as an excellent example of Wainwright’s talent, but the style is quite similar to his pre-hiatus output. That said, in the build-up to the LP’s release Wainwright has spoken a lot about getting better with age and about closing this ‘act’ of his career, so perhaps the title is a statement of intent, rather than anything else.

Either way, clearly the break has done him no harm and Unfollow The Rules offers up the same cocktail of intriguing complexity and simple accessibility that we have come to expect from Rufus Wainwright.

James Beck

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