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Older and wiser, Cohen gives us a tingle-inducing sign-off.
Ed Power, 03 Feb 2012
Few artists have settled so comfortably into their twilight days as Leonard Cohen. An ancient mariner even in his youth, old age feels an easy fit for the laconic crooner. On his first album in seven years, he half sings, half enunciates in a care-worn rumble, his vocals leavened with sardonic humour and an air of regretful amusement. Backed by long-time live accompanists The Webb Sisters, the 77 year old steps cautiously through a suite of gently -paced ballads, dispensing phlegmatic observations on life and mortality (“I’ve got no future, I know my days are few,” he says on ‘The Darkness’). He also seems keen on deconstructing the mythology that has come to encrust his name – on opener ‘Going Home’ he quips, “I’d love to speak with Leonard, he’s a sportsman and a shepherd, he’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.”
Musically, Cohen opts for understated chamber pop, guitars tastefully twanging in the gloom, horns and piano lulling and cooing, without ever quite demanding your attention. Casual Cohen fans will probably be drawn to ‘Come Healing’, the song that most obviously evokes comparisons with ‘Hallelujah’. For die-hards, though, it is the record’s bleaker passages that will bewitch: ‘Show Me The Place’ mourns lost virility; ‘Amen’ deploys the brutal imagery of bloody lambs and unclean butchers. There is an overwhelming sense that Cohen regards this as his last transmission, a poignant sign-off. It’s a farewell to both swell the heart and bring you to the brink of tears.