on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2014 15 Sep

Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems (a very short review)

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments

You can go into the details, and if you’ve followed Leonard’s way, you’ll do it anyway. 80 years old, the man from Canada is about to release a very good album. Three „killers“, no fillers. Decent songs, the other ones, at least. Decent in the best way, blues-inflected, sparse arrangements, the female choir moments well-dosed  & never overpowering, short glimpses of an Arabic-sounding voice, deep breathing, darkness with humour mixed in his own peculiar way. The titles of the outstanding tracks: „Almost Like The Blues“, „The Street“, and, best of all, brilliantly set in scene, „Nevermind“.   Excerpt of  „Nevermind’s“ lyrics: „Your victory was so complete / Some among you thought to keep / A record of our little lives / The clothes we wore, our spoons, our knives / The games of luck our soldiers played / The stones we cut / The songs we made / Our law of peace, which understands / A husband leads, a wife commands … / Names so deep and names so true / They’re blood to me and dust to you.“ You will go into the details, angels and demons included. 

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  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    You can listen to it now, days before its official release, on (first listen), and on Soundcloud.

  2. Jan Reetze:

    Hier ist der Link, ich hoffe, er funktioniert in Europa:

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Are you listenng to Leonard Cohen, too, Jan? If so, do ya agree with the three outstanding tracks, or would you or anyone else make other choices?

    Here’s my old review of Old Ideas, the studio album before this new one:

    The voice so deep, „a thousand kisses deep“, to say it with the words of one of his songs. After listening to the album three times in a row, you realize there is no standout track, no future evergreen (the word evergreen should be banned anyway: too much nostalgia even takes the good part of darkness away).

    The longest track, „Amen“, is a hymn, a prayer that agnostics and atheists might fall in love with while enjoying the feel of ancient banjo, sepia-coloured violin and simple cornet. On „Old Ideas“ the man with the golden voice (good old joke!) doesn’t act like a preacher at all, and every verse that could seem to send a message carved in stone and song is quickly counterbalanced by dark humour, self-irony and stoicism.

    There are bluesy moments, slow-motion-gospel – and jazz-vibes. The gravity comes from the voice, and how it nearly creates new definitions of close miking and sub-bass, with the result of warm intimacy. And then there are all the female voices of older and newer times (from Jennifer Warnes to the Webb Sisters) doing the jobs of a second voice, a background, and a choir. An old Cohen tradition: but remember, on the first studio album of his demon-chasing life, the producer added these kind of angelic colours against the will of the singer to soften the scenery. An old trick that still works.

    It is the sincerity of the artist that allows him to stick totally to old ideas without any suspect he might have lost it. He’s just slowing down, down, down – with a clear eye for exit signs and open places: „Sometimes I’d head for the highway/ I’m old and the mirrors don’t lie/ But crazy has places to hide in/ Deeper than saying goodbye,“ he sings/speaks on „Crazy To Love You“, accompanied by an acoustic guitar only.

    So, finally, closing time, silence, a last dying tone? No, that would be too pretentious. It’s better to leave the scene with a beat, a rhythmic soul groove – and asking for a kiss. Amen.

  4. Jan Reetze:

    Yes, Micha, I’m listening to Leonard Cohen too. The older he gets, the more I love him – somehow a bit like Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson (whom I missed yesterday night when he played the Benedum, but there was absolutely no ticket available anymore. Since there are no concert ad posters anymore here, it’s easy to miss concert announcements). „Live In London“ from 2009 is probably one of my Desert Island Records. There’s a whole life speaking to you, and it’s easy to fall for this voice. But let’s not forget his band and the back-up singers, they are fantastic. Without them the result wouldn’t come out as half as good. On his new record his voice seems to have even more patina. Good to know he’s still there.

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