I have to admit that I’ve never quite grasped Wainwright’s unique appeal before, even though I’ve always appreciated what he’s done in the past. Luckily, with Release The Stars, he’s crafted an album that manages to be more succinct and accessible without abandoning the over-the-top theatrics that makes him so charmingly unique.
Release The Stars is a pointed work. A superb example of this focus is the scathing first single, Going To A Town, which lampoons the current state of America through a gorgeous, melancholy melody. It’s understated for Wainwright, yet constructed with such simplicity that its message is powerfully unforgettable. To my ears, it’s the pinnacle of his career so far. Elsewhere, Wainwright and producing partner Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys lace the music (which is the usual theatrical cabaret pop you’d expect) with trumpets, harps, strings, and even electric guitars on Between My Legs, which is Wainwright’s first real rocker, a genre he proves surprising adept at handling. Slideshow, meanwhile, builds up slowly to a hissy fit of a chorus, leading into the playful Tulsa. Even the more straightforward moments (Nobody’s Off The Hook and Rules And Regulations, one of the album’s catchiest moments) have their own unique charms. In fact, even if the record loses a bit of momentum heading into the go-for-broke closing title track, there really isn’t much to find fault with here.
Those who have not yet succumb to Wainwright’s charms may want to give this a listen. It’s not his most challenging work, nor is it probably going to turn out to be his career defining album, but it is easily his most accessible and an accomplished record in its own right. A-
Key Tracks: Going To A Town, Between My Legs, Do I Disappoint You?