Rufus, j'adore you; you're my favourite reluctant gay messiah. I thrill to your Wagnerian histrionics and crushed-velvet piano serenades. But, sweetheart, you need a steady hand to keep you in check. In theory, self-producing Release The Stars made perfect sense - especially when you intended to make a spare, personal statement with open spaces and cocktail confessions. After all, you have a better pedigree (and taste) than most of your peers. But the outlandish baroque-cubed excess here, from the warbling chorales to the bleating woodwinds, weighs down track after track after track after track - often, sadly, at the expense of your songwriting. Even in the thick of the gay hell years, I can't imagine you would've penned something as graceless as the line "I shed a tear / between my legs." The more considered ballads here, like the languid Leaving For Paris No. 2 and the arch Going To A Town, are strongest, and I'm totally into the seething political critique that's become more prominent in your music, but I wish you'd had, say, a Van Dyke Parks on board to help focus this disc. Expecting camp-crazy Neil Tennant (who exec produced) to lay down the law is just loopy.
Rufus Wainwright hits the Danforth Music Hall June 11 and 12.