You wish more artists would challenge themselves in a fashion like this.
Ian Wade 2010
We should really cherish the likes of Rufus Wainwright. Sure, he may divide people, but while there’s hardly a lack of confessional singer/songwriters, few would apply their talents to writing an opera or painstakingly re-enact a full Judy Garland concert while also wanting a crack at being a pop star at the same time. You get the impression that if he was born 200 years ago, he’d be revered like a Mozart – something that he’d quite happily go along with – rather than duking it out with Glee soundtracks for a satisfying midweek. Sometimes you think he just wasn’t made for these times; other occasions, you wish more artists would challenge themselves in such a fashion.
The follow-up to 2007’s commercial breakthrough Release the Stars, All Days Are Nights is Rufus literally stripped back to just piano and voice. Intimate, intense and up close with the openly flamboyant Wainwright as he offers up himself with no full band to hide behind. It works, too.
Much of it sounds not unlike material from his triumphant Want One and Want Two sets: the elegant fluid opener Who Are You New York?, the playful cantering of Give Me What I Want and Give It to Me Now. However, with the three sonnets (written for a Shakespeare production in Berlin), the graceful Les feux d'artifice t'appellant (the final aria from his Prima Donna opera), and opulent closer Zebulon, we’re in culture supplement territory. That said, pop does shine through: Martha is a continuation of the Wainwright clan’s tradition of airing their dirty laundry in public, with Rufus berating his sister for not answering the phone, while The Dream is begging for a big orchestra to perk up behind it.
All Days Are Nights may not be the first album you’d pop on if you were in a chipper mood, but it certainly has its place on either a wet afternoon or long candlelit nights of soul searching.