2003 - Dreamworks - 59 minutes

Since we last heard from him in 2001 with the remarkable 'Poses', Rufus Wainwright hasn't had the best of times. Sinking in a "gay hell" (his words) of sexual risk and chemical kamikaze, the Canadian's self-destruction culminated in a month-long stint in a Minnesota clinic.

Now cleaned up, Wainwright has a lot riding on this. Despite strong reviews for 'Poses', the sales didn't match. Even then, it looked like Loudon's boy would be the type of artist who has a devoted army of fans, without ever hitting the commercial peaks. 'Want One' should only endorse that.

No artist wants to retread past glories, but it's not always easy to find a balance between retaining the best and improving the worst. Wainwright often struggles in this respect. Sometimes this is more bombastic than is healthy, overstepping the line between operatic aestheticism and sheer campness. Opener 'Oh What A World' is a prime example. With a title like some exclamation in a 'Carry On' film, it samples Ravel's 'Bolero' as its grandiose pretensions get the better of it.

And at the heart of 'Want One' is Wainwright's disaffection with the world. But it's a disaffection that occasionally hits more nerves than chords. Misery is fine, grousing isn't. The plaintive regret of 'Vicious World' might be heartfelt, but the 'woe-is-me' vibe means we don't care.

Still, there are some thrilling moments on 'Want One'. The rousing 'I Don't Know What It Is' should have closed the album; 'Movies of Myself' is the right side of attitude; and 'Go Or Go Ahead' reminds us of Wainwright's lyrical strengths.

Not near as good as 'Poses' then, but just about enough to prove it wasn't a fluke.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Oh What A World - I Don't Know What It Is - Vicious World - Movies Of Myself - Pretty Things - Go Or Go Ahead - Vibrate - 14th Street - Natasha - Harvester of Hearts - Beautiful Child - Want - 11:11 - Dinner At Eight