Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Want One or Want Two?

According to Wikipedia, Rufus Wainwright's two Want albums were originally going to be released together as a double album. For my part, I'm glad he spread these songs out across two separate releases, because listening to the entire Want saga in one go would be pretty exhausting. I was planning to have a Rufus double feature yesterday evening, but by the time I'd finished listening to Want One I was ready for bed.

Of course, the other upside of having two single albums instead of one double album is that we can judge them against each other! I've stated my preference for Want One in the past, but I've never really fleshed out that statement with an explanation. Well, here are three reasons why Want One is better than Want Two:

It's more personal
This was actually deliberate - to crib once more from Wikipedia, Want Two is all about "the world we live in" whereas Want One focuses on "the intensely personal". Personally, I prefer the intensely personal stuff, and Want One's assorted snapshots of RW's life (like Oh What a World and Vicious World) do more for me than anything on Want Two.

The weaker stuff is easier to ignore
Both albums have their weak points, but they're far more of an issue on Want Two. Why? Because they're all positioned towards the end of the album, which means that I pretty much lose interest after Gay Messiah has finished. I find Waiting for a Dream and Memphis Skyline to be kinda forgettable, and while Old Whore's Diet is far better, it's not so mind-blowing that you feel compelled to stick around for it.

Want One, one the other hand, is sequenced far more smartly. My least favourite songs are Movies of Myself (which I find stompy and charmless) and Beautiful Child (which just isn't all that interesting); tracks 4 and 11, respectively. Widely spaced as these lowlights are, they don't clog up the album like Want Two's lesser moments, and the whole LP feels stronger and more consistent for it.

It has more big moments
Let's face it - when you're listening to a Rufus Wainwright album, you're listening for the big, dramatic songs, and only a fool would argue that Want Two beats Want One in the drama stakes. Go or Go Ahead is a proper showstopper, and it has no equivalent on Want Two. Don't get me wrong, there are some great tracks on Want Two; I hope I haven't given you the impression that I don't like the second album, because I do. The baroque pomp of Little Sister, the nostalgic sound of Hometown Waltz, the bristling rock of The One You's all fantastic stuff, but I'd trade it all for something soars like Go or Go Ahead or the bolero bit in Oh What a World.

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