Everyone loves a rogue, and Loudon Wainwright III has been a lovable rogue for his whole life. With that life having lasted longer than his father’s, and with his former wife having died in the last few years, he’s decided to take stock of things, in his own imitable way, with pathos, humour, sarcasm and brutal honesty. Oh, and a duet with Dame Edna Everage.
Wainwright’s last few albums have taken in new versions of old songs, Charlie Poole covers and political commentary, but Older Than My Old Man Now returns him – as he admits in the lyrics to In C – to his favourite subject. Himself. In many ways, it’s a kind of sequel to his rightly acclaimed 2001 album Last Man On Earth and 1992’s History, which came after the deaths of his parents, and it’s a worthy successor to both of them.
Of course, with Loudon Wainwright III, you are never likely to get an album of entirely serious meditations on mortality and old age, but there’s plenty of depth here, alongside the more lighthearted numbers. But we’ll start off with I Remember Sex. A simple piano-led tune that features Wainwright sharing memories of sex with his long-term partner, who happens to be played by Dame Edna Everage. It’s a fairly entertaining little number, but is certainly the weakest song on the album. Maybe it’s just that I don’t much like Dame Edna…
Luckily, there’s more than enough quality elsewhere to make one slight disappointment not really matter, and the quality of the guests is beyond doubt. Appropriately, given the personal subject matter, all of his children are on-board, which is impressive when they have the collective talents of Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche. The former appears on The Days That We Die, a typically forthright song that plays out like an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but in the form of a really great tune sung by two incredible singer-songwriters with quite a history between them.
Martha and Lucy don’t get quite as prominent billing, but Ramblin’ Jack Elliott helps the star quality stay high with his guest appearance on Double Lifetime. Wainwright’s sense of humour comes to the fore in that one, and also Ghost Blues, which is quite a curious song to sing so soon after Kate McGarrigle‘s death, but no-one who knows Wainwright’s career will be surprised by it. Still, he’s at his best here when he’s being more sincere, with Over The Hill and Older Than My Old Man Now amongst the highlights.
This album is perhaps a little too split between the heartfelt and the pisstaking to really live up to History or Last Man On Earth, but it’s another fine addition to his back catalogue. He hasn’t released a disappointing record in years, even if he never gets the headlines or attention that his son (rightly) receives, and there’s no sign of his voice or his wit fading. It’s a shame that it seems to take family heartbreaks to bring out his serious and reflective side, but as he mellows with age we’ll get slightly more of that and slightly fewer duets with Australian drag queens. But with Loudon Wainwright III, you take the rough with the smooth, whether you’re a fan or one of his children.
- Listen to Loudon Wainwright III’s New Song, ‘Over the Hill’ (theatlantic.com)
- It’s A Family Affair: Rufus Wainwright Interviewed (thequietus.com)