Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas – god bless the man who will not rest.

Ok!  I’m a HUGE Leonard Cohen Fan. But I have to confess to being a little disappointed with the last few albums. I think there is a return to something from the old days here. With songs like Anyhow and Darkness and Going Home I hear the seeds of that old Leonard – the poet wrapped up inside the song. He turned a corner with The Future that meant I kept running back to the old songs and couldn’t quite connect with the newer albums. This feels like a return. Not all of the songs are perfect Cohen, but an awful lot of them are. (for me the stand out is Anyhow – is it right to lust after a man that age?)  He’s so timeless, he’s so reliable. He’s ultimately, just so very very perfectly generous.

The Guardian did a fantastic interview with the man himself. If you haven’t read it, check it out. I also reviewed Songs of Love and hate (still my favourite LC album) so be sure to check that out as well.

Going home

 

 

“This has the feel of death. It opens with “I love to speak with Leonard. He’s a sportsman and a shepherd. He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.

But he does say what I tell him, even though it is unwelcome. He just doesn’t have the freedom to refuse.”

And bang just like that – we’re into another Leonard Cohen album. He calls himself a brief elaboration of a tune. Is going home about death or is it perhaps going home to song?  This feels like a sister song to Tower of Song. Something about coming back to the music always lights Leonard Cohen up. This song sets us up to understand the words aren’t Leonard’s.  They come through him from some other place.  He claims he is the carrier and the one who doesn’t have the freedom to refuse.

He wants to write a love song

An anthem of forgiving

A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering

A sacrifice recovering

But that isn’t what I want him to complete

I want to make him certain

That he doesn’t have a burden

That he doesn’t need a vision

That he only has permission

To do my instant bidding

That is to SAY what I have told him

To repeat

 

Amen

Tell me again when my thirst is quenched and my ears are ready to listen. Tell me that you love me. Amen. In this song Leonard Cohen tiptoes his way through the vices of men. The lack of virtue and the idiocy of wanting something you are not ‘good’ enough to have. ‘Tell me again when I’ve seen through the horror.  Tell me again, tell me over and over.” This is the miracle of love. The miracle of being wanted despite your vices. Part way through the song a lovely lonely horn breaks through here to bring a dreamy jazz soaked feel to the lightness of a Leonard trip with his trademark female backing vocals. Nothing fancy, just Leonard, his pain, his remorse and his music.

Show me the place

Show me the place where you want your slave to go.

There were chains, so I loved you like a slave.

We now have that dark voice back. He can make it so deep and gravelly and then he can take it to the soft lilting place of Amen. A simpler, softer song this time, but posited against the deeper voice makes this seem more internal. He’s inward bound here.  Again we have the two sides of love. The willingness to be a slave and the agonizing chains that make one a slave. Initially when this song started I thought he was in full-blown ‘religious’ mode, but soon he turns it around (as only Leonard Cohen can) to make himself out to be the Sacrifical lamb on the altar of love. This is a real ‘just like the old days’ Leonard Cohen song. The likes of which I haven’t heard for ages. This is a gorgeous gorgeous song.

 

 

Darkness

The rumbling rambling guitar sounds like the Leonard of old here at the start. Then he lurches in one of those deliciously cynical songs we love so much. The Darkness, gets him every time, but not in that depressed sad Leonard way. Here we have a funky Hammond organ backing up a more up beat feel to off set the deep dark lyric. “winning you was easy, but darkness was the prize’.

….. it was drinking from your cup,
I got the darkness
from your little ruby cup
I said ‘is this contagious?’
You said ‘just drink it up’

 

 

Anyhow

Oh My god – this is STUNNING! There is a deep bluesy feel here that he is completely comfortably with. The lyrics roll off his tongue wrapped in that melting voice of his. Cohen whisper-speaks this bringing its sublime beauty to the surface and getting slightly out of the way of the piano and snare. Check the lyrics:

I know it really is a pity
The way you treat me now
I know you can’t forgive me
But forgive me anyhow
The ending got so ugly
I even heard you say
You never ever loved me
But could you love me anyway

I dreamed about you baby
You were wearing half your dress
I know you have to hate me
But could you hate me less?
I used up all my chances
And you’ll never take me back
But there ain’t no harm in asking
Could you cut me one more slack?

I’m naked and I’m filthy
And there’s sweat upon my brow
And both of us are guilty
Anyhow
Have mercy on me baby
After all I did confess
Even though you have to hate me
Could you hate me less?

It’s a shame and it’s a pity
I know you can’t forgive me
The ending got so ugly
You never ever loved me
Dreamed about you baby
I know you have to hate me
I’m naked and I’m filthy
And both of us are guilty
Anyhow
Have mercy on me baby

 

 

Crazy to love you

For me, this song had a real Tom Waits feel to it.  I thought of Tom Waits several times through this album, but mostly in this track. This is another classic Cohen track. Beautiful, that soft spoken voice reaching out for the heart and tugging gently. He does that lament for love so very very well. I had to go crazy to love you. Isn’t that the way we all have to go when we’re in love?

I’m tired of choosing desire
I been saved by a blessed fatigue
The gates of commitment unwired
And nobody trying to leave

Sometimes I’d head for the highway
I’m old and the mirrors don’t lie
But crazy has places to hide in
That are deeper than any goodbye

 

 

Come Healing

This has a hymn like feel to it. Harmony and that gentle organ in the background add weight to the hymnal feel of the lyric. The sing is filled with the health and power of the redemptive force of a religious call. Leonard Cohens lyrics are filled with the sadness and longing of one who sees themselves as dirty – unhealthy. It’s the redemptive power of love that moves him just as it is the redemptive power of the spirit of whatever church it is that he loves that drives him forward.

And lets face it – appears to have some sort of longevity thing going for it.

 

 

Banjo

Banjo and Leonard Cohen is not a match I make automatically. The poet is playing here, using alliteration to bounce him through a lovely song about a banjo bouncing on the sea.  the song itself bounces cheerfully along as though we were on that shore watching that banjo make its way. Our ominous friend asks us where it came from – why is it on ocean?  Did it fall from someones shoulder or did it come from someones grave. Then we have a characteristic change of direction. Suddenly we know he isn’t talking about the banjo anymore:

It’s coming for me darling
No matter where I go
Its duty is to harm me
My duty is to know

and we are reminder again that we are sitting here with a poet – not just a musician.

 

 

Lullaby

We have a sweet lilting country feel to this no-twist song that is straightforward and simple.

Sleep baby sleep
There’s a morning to come
The wind in the trees
They’re talking in tongues

If your heart is torn
I don’t wonder why
If the night is long
Here’s my lullaby
Here’s my lullaby

One of the things I adore about his lyrics is his ability to not question the sadness in his lovers eyes. He just accepts it as an inevitable part of life. He’ll say he’s sorry if it he caused it, but for the most part, he accepts that it will exist. No efforts to repair, no attempt to burden himself with worry. Just pure, respectful acceptance.

 

 

Different Sides

We’re manifesting songs like Everybody KNows here. It’s that universal in the personal when lovers argue. We’ve got a light and playful piano literally tickling the ivories for us in the background along side that understated Hammond organ. It’s a modern take on a seamless performer who has been delivering the goods for decades now.

You want to live where the suffering is
I want to get out of town
C’mon baby give me a kiss
Stop writing everything down

Both of us say there are laws to obey
Yeah, but frankly I don’t like your tone
You want to change the way I make love
I want to leave it alone

 

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