Leonard Cohen | Old Ideas

What is there left to say about Leonard Cohen? Or more importantly, what has Leonard Cohen got left to say? This is his first album in nearly 8 years. Although he has always been a man for a clever turn of phrase, his most recent two albums were almost suffocated by over-produced arrangements. Perhaps his recent, extensive tour would snap him out of this torpor?

Well it has to be said that Old Ideas is his finest album in some time, perhaps since The Future almost 20 years ago. Going Home starts with slick keyboards and cooing backing vocals but these fears are immediately dispelled by Cohen, who references himself in the opening verse (“I love to speak with Leonard… he’s a lazy bastard living in a suit”) with a deeper than ever vocal delivery, half-sung, half-spoken.

The voice is indeed as deep as it’s ever been, Show Me The Place could be Tom Waits doing gospel, with a beautifully simple, almost hymn-like melody. Darkness thrillingly starts with picked guitar, transporting the listener back to Songs of Love and Hate, and some wonderfully droll lyrics (“I got no future, I know my days are few… I thought the past would last me but the darkness got that too”). Equally, the prominent guitar on Crazy To Love You recalls his late 60s/early 70s period.

The sparse arrangements on Anyhow puts the spotlight on Cohen’s voice on a track which comes across like the older, weather-beaten cousin of Waiting For The Miracle, while Banjo is reminiscent of Tower of Song. The only real moment of schmaltz to be found here is Come Healing, where Cohen is smothered by the backing vocals.

There are no real left turns here or new directions, and it’s not going to recruit new listeners, but it’s as good an album as you could possibly hear from Leonard Cohen at this point. His ideas may be old, but they are his. Here’s to more of them.

Killian Laher

Tracklist:

  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’

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