Friday, October 3, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: LEONARD COHEN - POPULAR PROBLEMS
I guess my only concern is whether he's compromising at all, by being so quick to record. This is a guy who laboured over lyrics for years, and was pretty particular about his tunes as well. Famous Blue Raincoat, for instance, had its music completed before he started the words. Now it's paint-by-number Cohen, a gospel song here, a keyboard there, his aged, wise voice delivering the goods, answered by the harmonies of the two women singing back-up. It is a winning formula, I haven't tired of it, but we might not get a last burst of brilliance, a final Hallelujah as it were. Cohen's certainly willing to give us solid work though, and even reference his past for fun. You Got Me Singing includes the winking, "You got me singing the Hallelujah song."
There are more in-jokes at his own expense, harkening back to when he sang, "I was born with the gift of a golden voice," that makes us all laugh in concert. This time, when he's listing all the awful things in the world, he sings "There's torture and there's killing/There's all my bad reviews," in Almost Like The Blues. He tears down the 'fourth wall' in the song Slow, with its tortoise-level pace, as he tells us "I'm slowing down the tune/I never liked it fast." There's the Biblical metaphor of Born In Chains, which is probably the closest to a major Cohen number on this set. It was the original version of the song I Can't Forget, from 1988's I'm Your Man. He uses the Biblical theme of escape from bondage in Egypt to sing about his personal escape and fulfillment. Is Cohen satisfied and happy? It seems so. And we are getting very, very good songs out of it. Maybe not another Hallelujah, but count your blessings.