The debut album from yet another talented member of the Wainwright family demonstrates
clearly how deep that gene pool truly is. The
daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, and the brother of Rufus
Wainwright, has a lot of promise (and baggage) before she ever opens her mouth to sing, but Martha clearly comes into her own with this debut full-length
Like her brother, Martha's voices often dances around her song's rhythms-sort
of a cabaret influence into her style. In her song "G.P.T.," Wainwright uses
repeated rhymes over a deftly languid melody with an almost 60s pop feel: "The
sun is down, you'll act the clown/I'll dance around, we'll hit the town," she
sings, bringing a giddy excitement to life in both sound and sense.
Another family trait is not to hold back when writing lyrics. Becoming one of
the most notorious songs on the album is "Bloody Mother F***ing A***ole," and it simultaneously condemns and celebrates her father Loudon (who, in the song "I'd Rather Be Lonely," wrote of Martha: "Every time I see you cry you're just a clone of every woman I've known"). Martha piercingly condemns him for being an absentee father. "And you have no idea, no idea how it feels to be on your own/In your own home," she sings bitterly in her burgeoning cigarettes-and-whiskey voice.
And yet, in a way, she celebrates her father--at least his own penchant for confessional lyrics delving deep into the heart of family pain. When she sings "Oh I wish I wish I wish I was born a man/So I could learn how to stand up for myself/Like those guys with guitars/I've been watching in bars," and in other lyrics, one palpably feels the influence of Loudon's painfully playful pen. It's a brilliant, aching, angry song.
Another great song is "TV Show," during which Martha sings "Oh, I laugh a lot/But that's just a plot" and further explains that it's "Not the way that I don't love you/But the way that I hate myself." More psychoanalytical revelations, but she's also inherented her father's talent for diffusing deeply emotional lyrics with whimsy. She goes on to explain in the song that "It was Oprah/On the TV show/She told me so."
Some interesting people assist in making this album as good as it is. Brad Albetta of the '90s band Marry Me Jane, and who also played bass on Rufus Wainwright's Want Two CD, serves as producer. Garth Hudson plays some keyboards, as does Jesse Malin's keyboardist Joe McGinty. Jane Scarpantoni (the cello girl) appears, as well as brother Rufus and mother Kate.
As Martha has said about coming from a well-known musical family in an interview, "Sometimes you do feel like maybe there are people in the wings waiting for a fall. Like, 'oh the youngest one just sucks!' And are ready to just pounce on that story, you know? 'Couldn't be another great Wainwright ...'
But this album will disabuse any naysayers of that notion. This is clearly another great Wainwright album. Time will tell if Martha is another great Wainwright, but her debut shows that's where she's headed.