I've had this blog for a couple of years now but so far I have never felt compelled to comment on a recent release - or review a new album if you will. But today I bought OLD IDEAS, the new album by LEONARD COHEN.
I'm sure by now you've already read some reviews, complete with quotes maybe, like
"We find ourselves on different sides of a line that nobody drew" or
"I know you have to hate me, but could you hate me less?" or
"I'm old and mirrors don't lie" or
"I caught the darkness drinking from your cup, I said 'Is it contagious?', you said 'Just drink it up'".
In fact you've probably already heard the whole thing since it's been streaming for a week. I must say though that the vinyl sounds way better than the stream, including the atrocious guitar sound on The Darkness.
Cohen has been making synth albums for 28 years now - over half of his recording career. Out of eleven albums, only six were good old fashioned Leonard Cohen style (I'm using that term loosely, considering his voyage with Phil Spector).
And I'm not complaining. In fact I will argue that I'm Your Man and The Future stand up there with New Skin and Love and Hate.
But now he picked things up where he'd left them in 1979 with Recent Songs. I just wonder if the title "Old Ideas" refers to that sound he'd left behind, or to the words.
The album opens with Cohen describing himself as a "lazy bastard living in a suit". Which reminds me of a 1964 poem from FLOWERS FOR HITLER in which he desribed himself as "locked in a very expensive suit".
It closes with "Both of us say there are laws to obey". Also in FLOWERS FOR HITLER he wrote "These were not poplar trees and nuns you walked between. These were laws."
In PARASITES OF HEAVEN (1966), he wrote " I loved a hundred women, never told the same lie twice." This has nothing to do with the subject at hand, I just think it's a cool line.
Old Ideas then. The working title was THE DARKNESS, when the release was first announced several months ago. It would have been misleading - although that would have fit more than one or two of his previous works.
Now, it appears that something has healed inside this man who in 1961 wrote "For you I will be a Dachau Jew, and lie down in lime with twisted limbs, and bloated pain no mind can understand". (from THE SPICE-BOX OF EARTH)
In 1971: " Myself, I long for love and light, but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?" (SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE)
In 1988: "Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost". (I'M YOUR MAN)
And in 1992: "When they said 'Repent', I wonder what they meant". (THE FUTURE)
I'm sure many will describe this new album using quotes from it, calling it an "anthem of forgiving", a "manual for living with defeat". But really this could apply to everything he's ever published or sung.