This is a lush, fully-rounded album that stands on its own...
Chris Jones 2007-06-01
For years Loudon Wainwright III has been moving on the periphery of the movie industry. First seen in episodes of the TV adaptation of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (as a protest-singing GI) his singing career has gradually given way to real appearances as an actor in material as varied as Ally McBeal and Tim Burton’s Big Fish. Meanwhile his musical ideas have peppered everything from Noah Baumbach’s The Squid And The Whale to Marin Scorcese’s The Aviator (where he also appeared along with both children, Martha and Rufus).
Thus it’s a natural progression that now he’s now supplying the entire soundtrack to Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up; the follow up to his 40 Year Old Virgin (in which Loudon played a priest, of all things). Having heard Wainwright’s composition, “Grey In L.A” (the opener here) he realised that his patented acerbic, barbed commentary on modern urban living was the perfect accompaniment to an acerbic, barbed commentary on life (and love) in the self-same city. He was entirely right.
For years Wainwright has laboured to shake off the dull Bob Dylan comparisons that marked his early career. The truth is that he’s always peddled a much more friendly and (most importantly) humorous form of singer-songwriting. Strange Weirdos, bringing together Wainwright with new partner in music, Joe Henry, is filled with amusing broadsides at life on the West Coast (“Grey In L.A.”, “Valley Morning”) and moving explorations of the meaning of love and parenthood.
The comedy factor is there at every turn, but “X Or Y” stands out as a classic Loudon ditty on the lottery of procreation. Meanwhile songs like ''Final Frontier'' and ''Doin’ The Math'' hide deeper, more sobering truths behind the witticisms. These are the songs of a man who’s lived a full life.
Quality is nearly always assured in Loudon’s oeuvre, but this album has even more to back it up: its supporting cast. Boasting supporting roles from legends such as Richard Thompson (fresh from a stint on Rufus Wainwright’s Release The Stars) and arrangements by the incredible Van Dyke Parks, this is a lush, fully-rounded album that stands on its own, just as Thompson’s album for Wim Wenders’ Grizzly Man did. Let’s hope the film’s just as good…