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Poignantly moving and also hilariously funny latest album from Loudon Wainwright III, which as well as of all his five children also includes a guest appearance from Dame Edna Everage
As the title of his latest album suggests, Loudon Wainwright III has reached an age where he is older than his own father ever got to be. This is the jumping off point for 'Older Than My Old Man Now', but from there we look not only at Wainwright’s relationship with his father, but the relationship he has with his own children (Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Lexie Kelly Wainwright all appear on the record), the trials of getting older and the grisly spectre of death edging ever nearer.
This record has everything one would expect and hope for from one of Wainwright’s albums. At times it is heartbreakingly moving, as on the beautiful ‘In C’, ‘Somebody Else’ or ‘Over the Hill’, which is the only song Wainwright ever wrote with his ex-wife Kate McGarrigle, back in 1975. Here he sings it with their daughter Martha Wainwright Chaim Tannenbaum. It’s made all the more sad knowing that McGarrigle sadly passed away in 2010.
There are a couple of songs on the album which start with Wainwright reciting some of his father, Louden Jr’s writings about his father and his children. One of these is the title track, which puts the difficulty of coming to terms with one’s age in the context of knowing that you have gotten older than your father ever got to be. The other track is ‘The Days That We Die’, which Wainwright sings with his son Rufus. I get the feeling that this song was written from Loudon’s perspective as both a father and a son, and how his relationship both with Loudon Jr, and Rufus Wainwright. It’s brilliantly affecting, and achingly sad to hear Loudon and Rufus acknowledging the unfixable holes in their relationship.
So yes, there is a lot of pathos to be found here, but it is often delivered with the songwriter’s customary wit and lyrical prowess. Some of the songs are plain laugh-out-loud; ‘My Meds’ is a piano-led romp in a vaudeville style, lamenting the cocktail of medications that become so essential to life as the years go by. “Girl I swore of Cialis – I’m no longer in the mood/4 hours at attention? Man that could kill a dude!”
Along with his children, Wainwright is joined by a plethora of guests on the album. Chris Smither and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott lend brilliant vocals to ‘Sombody Else’ and ‘Double Lifetime’ respectively, and legendary guitarist John Scofield lays down some great jazz guitar on ‘The Here and the Now’, in which Wainwright catalogues his entire life in three minutes and forty three seconds.
But by far the most noteworthy guest to be found on Older than my 'Old Man Now is Barrie Humphries’ monstrous comedy creation, Dame Edna Everage on ‘I Remember Sex’, looking back with Loudon on the imagined, energetic and experimental sex-life they once had in their younger days. It’s a very funny song, and a welcome break amidst some of the more death-heavy subject matter.
This is a wonderful album which is as likely to make you laugh as it to make you cry. If you are young like me, death and aging seem like some distant trial we might have to face one day, far off in the distant future. I’m well aware it’s going to catch up with me much sooner than I can even start to comprehend, but at this point I can listen to this record and laugh at Wainwright’s witty lyrics and enjoy the more melancholy moments with some degree of detachment. For the older people listening to this album, I suspect there will be not quite so many funny moments, but many more that seem painfully familiar. Either way, and whatever your age, I’m certain you will find much to love in this fantastic collection of songs. Here’s hoping Loudon may live to grow older than many, many more.
The Here & The Now
Older Than My Old Man Now
All In A Family
Over The Hill
I Remember Sex
The Days That We Die
Something's Out to Get Me