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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Wainwright Follows in Parents' Footsteps

September 05, 1997|SUSAN KANDEL NATALIE NICHOLS..BD: SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Displaying the offbeat sense of humor one might expect from the son of the man who wrote "Dead Skunk," singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright faintly echoed the wry, deadpan style of his famous folkie parents, Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, during his LunaPark performance on Tuesday. While he proved capable enough as an artist to justify his recent signing to the DreamWorks label, Wainwright's songs were often too clever for mass consumption (another trait he shares with his folks).

Wainwright, 22, gamely worked the sparse audience in the club's Cabaret Room, accompanying himself on piano and guitar and rambling between songs with a funny, self-deprecating wit. Wainwright's fairly musically sophisticated work revolved around his love of opera and other highbrow art forms, at times recalling Cole Porter. But his fanciful tunes were more about ideas than experiences.

While there was humor in an eccentric number such as "Damn Ladies," which implored such doomed literary figures as Desdemona to take action and change their destinies, a droning, five-minute opus about Barcelona came off like a bad Picasso imitation. Wainwright is not without talent, and the songs were sort of cute, but the material was far too arch and intelligent to ever become fashionable. Perhaps DreamWorks' gurus took a look at the unexpectedly enduring lounge music craze and decided that a '90s neo-cabaret movement is just around the bend.

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