While promoting his debut opera, Prima Donna, Wainwright spoke of his desire to have a proper stab at the commercial crossover that has thus far eluded him. The Mark Ronson-produced Out Of The Game appears to be exactly that.
The lush title track and opener heralds a succession of the most direct songs of Wainwright’s career; Jericho evokes 70s radio staples such as Elton John and Carole King, while Rashida could be an outtake from The Beach Boys’ Holland and Barbara is a delightful take on blue-eyed soul. These settings suit Wainwright’s luxuriant and louche vocals beautifully but, in targeting mass appeal, he may have sacrificed the more idiosyncratic qualities that have defined his best work.
Happily, the second half of the record is a reminder of how special an artist Wainwright can be. Montauk is a brilliantly odd, opulent song with a debt to the minimalism of Philip Glass and boasting the killer opening line, “One day you will come to Montauk and see your dad wearing a kimono and see your other dad pruning roses.” It’s the kind of thing only Wainwright could get away with. Bitter Tears follows: a pulsing electro-indie oddity. Elsewhere, Sometimes You Need is a bittersweet cousin of Jackson Browne’s These Days, with a string arrangement giving it an unexpected twist, and Candles is a slow-burning, hymn-like ending; two of the strongest songs of Wainwright’s career.