*** Rufus Wainwright, "Rufus Wainwright," DreamWorks. Although he's the offspring of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, 23-year-old Rufus Wainwright's sensibility leans closer to cabaret and musical theater. Nearly every track on his debut is couched in grandiose orchestrations, and his lyrics convey an abiding, uncynical faith in love that would sound mawkish were it not for his skills as a songwriter and arranger.
Singing in a boyish, tremulous croon, Wainwright draws out fragile melody lines that almost sound like dirges. If anything, his subject matter suggests a Victorian-era aesthete. The jilted lover in "Barcelona" seeks refuge in the faded romanticism of that fabled city; "Damned Ladies" is a homage to famous opera heroines, while the protagonist of "Matinee Idol" is a washed-up Rudolph Valentino figure.