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Leonard Cohen: 'Old Ideas' - Album review

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Leonard Cohen: 'Old Ideas'
Released on Tuesday, Jan 31 2012

Leonard Cohen loves an understated album title, and you don't get more low-key than Old Ideas. Even that unassuming label won't dampen expectations, though, this being the first record from pop's poet laureate in well over seven years.

Money troubles forced him back on the road after his ex-manager yoinked his cash, so there was always the fear this ever-so-long-awaited follow-up to 2004's Dear Heather could have ended up as a purely financial exercise. Of course, it's nothing of the sort.

Over ten new songs, Leonard rasps his way through 40 minutes of music that stands up against his last 11 records. If his live shows from 2008 showed that he could still play the classics as well as ever, it's clear from the warped self-examination of opener 'Going Home' ("He's a lazy bastard living in a suit") that even at 77, he's not finished writing them either.

The female backing vocals of the last few records are still present and correct, but where the girls overpowered Leonard on Dear Heather, here he always seems in control. It's a much better record for it, and gives him the space to try on a few clothes - old and new - for size.

The stripped-back 'Crazy To Love You' might as well be called 'Chelsea Hotel #3' for all its twangs and heartache. 'Different Sides' insouciantly struts in a way Cohen hasn't done since Death of a Ladies Man, but with much, much more finesse. Lenny does Dylan does the blues on 'Darkness', possibly the album's standout and a track begging for a heavy live rendition sometime soon (please!).

The seven-and-a-half minute 'Amen' is like a condensed mid-career Cohen best-of. It recalls 'Hallelujah' in its religious title and imagery ("When the filth of the butcher / Is washed in the blood of the lamb") and 'I'm Your Man' in its rhythms and the odd snatch of melody, all underlayed with the epic ramble of 'Waiting For The Miracle'.

Tossing out fragile melodies and one-liners most would kill for ("I know you have to hate me / But could you hate me less?") like they aren't anything, it sometimes feels like Leonard's not even trying. When you're as good as he is, you barely have to.


Tracks to download: 'Amen', 'Darkness', 'Crazy To Love You'
If you like this, you'll like: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave

Watch the Leonard Cohen 'Show Me The Place' lyric music video below:

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