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Great concept - monotone reality
on June 14, 2010
It's hard to put down an artist trying to do something different, especially when they are well-established artists such as Rufus Wainwright. But "different" should equal "interesting" - something that, unfortunately, "All days are nights - Songs for Lulu" fails to achieve.
This album features twelve songs of love, grief and desire recorded solely by Rufus at the piano. On paper, that concept should have worked wonderfully - anyone who has attended a Rufus Wainwright concert knows that these elements are fundamental to his music, and that he's at his best when he's sitting at the piano. But the problem on "All days are nights" is the songs themselves. They sound, well - flat. The usually gorgeous melodies expected from Rufus are gone, and their place has been taken by a collection of grim, monotone and unmelodic compositions that weave in and out of each other without much distinction. If it weren't for their strong lyrics, most of these songs would sound as though Rufus hit the "Record" switch, sat at the piano and recorded whatever happened to come out. There are a few exceptions, and they happen late in the album - "The Dream" is not only the album's best song but one of his strongest songs ever, "Les feux d'artifice t'appellent" is simply brilliant and "Zebulon" concludes the album on a truly beautiful note. But they are not enough to sustain the entire album; the remaining songs lack the emotional appeal of past masterpieces such as "The art teacher", "This love affair", "11:11" or "Going to a town" - which is odd, given the depth and intimacy of the lyrics collected on "All days are nights".
Maybe this was something Rufus just had to do, a creative outlet to help him through some emotionally difficult times (he lost his mother, Kate McGarrigle, in the process of writing and recording this album). And one can only applaud his willingness to release one of the most uncommercial propositions ever. This is a superbly executed album and it will certainly take the listener on a different journey. And it should have worked, because the format of the album is not that different from what has earned Rufus his many fans. Still, one can only hope that the next time he returns to the studio, he will come up with songs that can also appeal to the rest of us.