Leonard Cohen’s latest has lovely melancholy lyrics — and a better sound than he’s given us in ages.
For two decades now Leonard Cohen has been experiencing an Indian summer with almost no match in any art form.
Besides a very few exceptions — jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins – composer Leos Janacek – novelists Philip Roth and Ursula Le Guin — has anyone turned out so much good work after the age of 60 or so?
And despite Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize for Literature no one can argue that he’s doing better work now on parr with his heyday in the 1960s and ’70s.Even the recent celebration of the great nonogenarian Chuck Berry has to stop short of claiming substantial output since his late ‘30s.Cohen on the other hand has been on a genuine roll.
So the fact that Cohen has a new album at all is good news.
The fact that ‘You Want it Darker’ provoked a rich and insightful New Yorker story by David Remnick is even better.
And it’s truly reason to bow to a Canadian/Jewish/Buddhist deity that the new Cohen record is dark- quiet and utterly beautiful.
Its mournfulness is cut with a celebration of the complexity of human life.
It’s no surprise that Cohen – who is famous for crisp early songs like ‘Bird on a Wire”’as well as more expansive word-drunk numbers like ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ has turned out another album with great lyrics.
He was of course a poet a decade before he recorded any music and his lyrics are among the few that can stand up on the page.
The phrases that drift through the record — ‘How broken I would be…’ – ‘I turn my back on the devil/ I turn my back on the angels too’ – ‘I’m running late – they’ll close the bar’ — give ‘Darker’ a twilit melancholy. I
ts language at the very least continues his very high standard.
The surprising thing, though, is that the music is as good as any Cohen record from the last 30 years.
His gift for melody – as Dylan describes reverently in the New Yorker piece – is just about unsurpassed.