Rufus Wainwright

Release the Stars (Geffen)

Phases & Stages

Rufus Wainwright

Release the Stars (Geffen)

Ren and Stimpy would've had a field day with the CD booklet pictures of Rufus Wainwright in lederhosen; Judy Garland, by contrast, a fit over the arrangements on the piano man's fifth album. Overwrought in Berlin, Release the Stars continues dispensing cigarettes and chocolate milk – Wainwright's ever-ripe vexations – but opener "Do I Disappoint You" proves rhetorical immediately. Orchestral overkill grandstanding on the song's perceptive universality deserves a pie in the face. "Rules and Regulations" also builds unnecessary crescendo, as does "Slideshow." Instead, Stars should've been "Tiergarten," with its grandfather-clock charm and the succulent "Sanssouci." "Nobody's off the Hook," all string quartet and piano, fares even better. That's when it all goes out the observatory window on the Euro-trash clank of "Between My Legs." Stars' back CD inset picture of Wainwright and his mother, Kate McGarrigle, reads, "Dedicated to my mother who still whispers in my ear that I'm great." Not this black hole. (Rufus Wainwright and Neko Case face off at Stubb's, Saturday, Aug. 11.)

**

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