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Rufus Wainwright
DreamWorks Records

It took falling in love with this album to finally understand the hype surrounding Wainwright since his highly praised self-titled debut came out in 1998. Poses comes across as more engaging, more dramatic, more confident and more interesting than the earlier album, but it still bears the unusual pop style that drew people to Wainwright's previous work. The openly gay pianist and vocalist from Montreal sets an eerie, gray, almost European mood with his dark operatic piano melodies and lush string arrangements, and the use of a near orchestra of other instruments gives his music a sophisticated transcontinental quality. The opening track, "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," is a catchy chronicle of vices ("If I should buy jellybeans/Have to eat them all in just one sitting") that concludes fatalistically with "Please be kind if I'm a mess." Other songs offer intriguing lyrics from the weary and restless perspective of a traveling poet. Wainwright puts his substantial vocabulary to good use--it's hard not to appreciate a songwriter who can incorporate the word "copious" into a song ("The Tower of Learning")--and on "Rebel Prince" he sings in French and gives the word "marigold" a peculiar beauty through repetition. He also covers "One Man Guy," by his father, Loudon Wainwright III. This seductively fresh album touches on the past with Wainwright's scratchy Dylanesque vocals and Beatlesesque melodies, and like a novel you can't put down, it's over much too quickly. (Sarah Quelland)

'Introducing... the Denver Gentlemen'

The Denver Gentlemen
Introducing ... the Denver Gentlemen
Absalom Recordings

Rescued and released after collecting dust for five years, this vintage-sounding album effectively stands as the last will and testament of a much-worshipped Denver-based alt-country band that once featured members of 16 Horsepower and Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The final incarnation of the band included Jeffrey-Paul, Mark McCoin, David Willey, Valerie Terry and Jon Stubbs, and their style is not unlike that of 16 Horsepower's. Steeped in old-time religion and turn-of-the-century ghosts, there's nothing modern about this record--and yet there's something ingeniously novel about its antique style. Jeffrey-Paul's tenuously wavery vocals and the often almost-frantic use of instrumentation give this strange fusion of old-world Americana (complete with jaunty cabaret, creepy carnival, Appalachian folk, ragtime, polka, swing and church hymns) a ghostly, otherworldly quality that's at once unnerving and entrancing. There is talk that Jeffrey-Paul may revive the Gentlemen with a new lineup; with luck, nothing will get lost in the translation. (Sarah Quelland)

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From the August 2-8, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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