Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

I fucking love Leonard Cohen‘s work. This is important when reading this review. Leonard Cohen, for me, resides in a special place for silver age singer songwriters whose legacy and consistency eclipses their mortal age. They can do no wrong because they have earned that right. Johnny Cash did this with his late year American Recordings. Tom Waits has done the same thing with every album he makes. Leonard Cohen’s four decade career in making phenomenal albums will perhaps throw off my objectivity. It will also, perhaps, obscure my vision when looking at an average album.

Leonard Cohen is a singer songwriter who began his musical foray in his thirties after a mildly successful career as a poet. Since 1969, Cohen has sporadically released records which have continued to redefine the boundaries between music and poetry. Even his album titles are in the vein of fragmentary artwork. Ten New Songs, Songs from a Room, Songs of Love and Hate Recent Songs all speak to an intimate immediacy which could come in a slender paperback book.

Old Ideas is Cohen’s 12th album and first in 8 years. It is also the first album since Cohen’s financial fallout as well as two well received live albums. Old Ideas also comes with an almost unanimous backing from critics, fans and me who have all agreed Cohen, as an artist, will continue to make good albums until he is laid to rest. Much like that slender book of poetry, Old Ideas promises nothing new apart from subtle changes in musical accompaniment. It will contain dark songs printed against a white background just with different stanzas and spacing. This is the same thing which has happened — well– since 1969.

The thing which shines in Old Ideas is the words. Leonard Cohen, who is now 77, still retains an artful mastery syntax and word choices. Ever since his 1969 debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen, his sentences and phrases sink like weights in water. Every word is shrouded in a bleak darkness which never dismisses the possibility of redemption. Cohen’s poetry wanders through a purgatorial world never settling on conclusions with elements both hallucinatory and sobering. this is the thing which makes his written work outstanding. Cohen’s delicacy and bluntness with language carries the twice the weight as his music is increasingly becoming sparser.

Old Ideas continues the musical tradition started in 2001 with Ten New Songs with a base of smooth rock and jazz instrumentation combined with the ever present accompaniment of female accompaniment. While beginning in folk and moving in and out of accompaniment, Cohen seems to have settled into a comfortable adult sound. There are instances where he is speaking poetry over whips of music. Whether or not this is a product of age or artistic choice is not evident. What is certain is that Old Ideas is not an album destined for crossover success. Its appreciation will come from fans that are left after his other fans shrug their shoulders.

Old Ideas is certainly arresting in terms of emotion. The opener “Going Home” rolls out like the last will and self deprecating testament of an experienced sage. “Show me the Place” manages to make the listeners feel slightly uncomfortable with lyrics like “But there were chains so I hastened to behave / There were chains so I loved you like a slave.” It is alright, Cohen is allowed to say whatever he wants. It is certainly enjoyable to have Cohen’s albums still being made and whether or not Old Ideas stands up to the caliber of his other work is still being evaluated. Even Cohen’s early 00’s albums are starting to gain dimensions. Much like a fine wine or a 18th century landscape painting, its value and legacy will only grow exponentially with age. For now Old Ideas only gives me half the amount of chills as his early records. It is disappointing but I can not complain.

1. Going Home
2. Amen
3. Show Me The Place
4. The Darkness
5. Anyhow
6. Crazy To Love You
7. Come Healing
8. Banjo
9. Lullaby
10. Different Sides

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2012-02-02T17:21:54-08:00 rating 3.0 out of 5

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