The combination of immense talent and even greater ambition can be incredibly frustrating. Case in point: Rufus Wainwright. His vast skills as a vocalist, musician, songwriter and performer may be indisputable, but what gets him into trouble is the latter trait, which he allows to run rampant on his duo of Want albums.
Want Two, like its predecessor, is a confusing stew of an album, leaving listeners scratching more often than bobbing their heads. You'll listen with startled amazement to await which ill-fated avenue Wainwright will stroll down next. It's not that Want Two is a terrible album, for all of its flaws it is quite captivating, it's just far too ambitious for its own good. Mired in ludicrously over the top, unnecessarily sparse, or operatic arrangements, Want Two never really highlights Wainwright's strengths. His voice is as wonderful as always and he can still turn a clever phrase, flashes of his songwriting brilliance do squeak through occasionally, but these moments are outweighed by the sheer amount of songs which do not work.
The six minute Latin chant of "Agnus Dei" opens the album on a bad foot from which it never quite recovers. Want Two only occasionally stumbles across a good song. When these songs find their way, they're worth the wait. "The One You Love," "Gay Messiah" and "Crumb by Crumb" are all among Wainwright's best efforts to date. Unsurprisingly they're more reminiscent of his first two albums than the rest of the Want project.
With some harsh editing, the two Want albums could have produced a solid single effort capable of standing on equal footing with Wainwright's first two releases. Instead, we now have two fascinatingly mediocre albums and no knowledge of whether Wainwright's ambitions have permanently usurped his talents.