Rufus Wainwright's 2012 studio effort, Out of the Game, is a '70s singer/songwriter album with some soft rock and disco and elements that bring to mind a mix of Boz Scaggs, ELO, and Todd Rundgren. Produced by Mark Ronson, the master of making retro new again, Out of the Game has a vintage, organic aesthetic featuring horns, old-school keyboards, strings, and the occasional fuzzed-out guitar. In that sense, it is a return to the more straightforward pop/rock style of Wainwright's early albums, although some of the opera and classical influences of 2007's Release the Stars are still evident. Similarly, the stark personal style Wainwright investigated on 2010's All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu is also still here, albeit in a much more pop-friendly and melodically palatable form. Wainwright, who has always been a deeply intimate songwriter (he confronted his crystal meth addiction and recovery from it on 2003's Want One, dealt directly with the death of his mother, Kate McGarrigle, on Lulu, and has never shied away from addressing his homosexuality), here details his life since becoming engaged to his partner in 2010 and fathering a child in 2011 with Lorca Cohen (Leonard Cohen's daughter) on the impressionistic "Montauk." In the song, Wainwright croons to his future adult daughter, "One day you will come to Montauk and see your dad wearing a kimono and see your other dad pruning roses/Hope you won't turn around and go." Later in the song, he summons the ghost of his mother with the line, "One day years ago years ago in Montauk lived a woman now a shadow/There she does wait for us in the ocean." It's a terribly bittersweet moment and a kind of apotheosis of all the events that inform the mood on Out of the Game. As moving as that song is, Wainwright and Ronson balance out the more introspective songs with such immediately engaging cuts as the Rundgren-esque soft rock title track anthem, the soulful baroque pop of "Jericho," and the T. Rex-meets-'60s girl group-sounding ballad "Rashida." Elsewhere, "Barbara," "Bitter Tears," and the languid "Song of You" evince a kind of Giorgio Moroder Europop vibe and also compare favorably to works by such similarly inclined Wainwright contemporaries as Ron Sexsmith and Richard Hawley. Although Wainwright's private life may have taken him out of the pop game for a time, this album is one of his most classicist, not classical, pop records and in that sense, Out of the Game is definitely a winner.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar