Old Ideas

We should all be so lucky. To be alive, creative, and thoroughly (and wonderfully) corrupt as 77-year-old Leonard Cohen is on his new record, Old Ideas. The irony here is that these are not old ideas for Cohen.

In fact they are the same one’s he’s been singing about for 40 years. And from the first lines (“I love to speak to Leonard/He’s a sportsman and a shepherd/He’s a lazy bastard/Living in a suit”), his sly voice, in its customary near croak, near whisper, full of self-knowledge and that inimitable wry edge, gives lines about lust (“You want to change the way I make love/I want to leave it alone"; “I Want to Leave It….”), love (“It’s a shame and it’s a pity/The way you treat me now/I know you can’t forgive me/But forgive me anyhow.”; “Anyhow”), and a general sense of a life well-lived, a delicious power.

I’d call it thoughtful, not sad. The spare, sentimental musical accompaniments throughout are peerless. The banjo and solo break in “Amen,” the solo violin in “Show Me The Place,” and the organ/guitar vamp behind the record’s only upbeat tune, the unmistakably Dylanesque, “Darkness,” are all exactly right from the first moment you hear them. Only Leonard Cohen would release a single called “Darkness.” His conspiratorial-toned voice slithers its whispery way through it all like an all-knowing snake, his siren’s hiss giving the listener insight into the torments experienced by Adam’s apple chomping mate.

Exquisite, atmospheric stuff from start to finish. Well-recorded as well, what there is of it. And the female trio behind him adds accents that sound like Cohen’s angels appearing out his darkness and his dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. Like Tom Waits, another dark, unmistakable singer that Cohen occasionally resembles (though he’s so much smoother), this is an artist who’s created his own universe in which he sits at the center. I’m blathering now. A stunningly low key late-career masterpiece.

stereo slim's picture

By chance I had just started to listen to this record when I came across your review - bravo, it very well captures the essence of the album which, laconically, puts most other contemporary outings to shame, like e.g. Macca's latest effort ...

Reed's picture

One super great album if you are a fan.  The "Live in London" album is also phenominal.

Tyler.F's picture

I love these reviews because they really show us what the record is all about. I hope that he will see success from his record and use his old but not so old ideas to inspire many.



Just because you are 77-years-old doesn't mean that you cannot still try this and create some great music and be among the best in your field.

Jon Iverson's picture

Am I the only one that hears Cohen channelling Frank Zappa in the song "Darkness"?

"I am gross and perverted
I'm obsessed 'n deranged" . . .

stereo slim's picture

... "I have existed for years,
but very little has changed"

'cept yo' ears, it seems (judging from the picture) - therefore you're the first to recognize the Zappa sub-tones :-)

stereo slim's picture

"I am the slime oozin' out from your TV set" (Zappa)

" ... Is this contagious? You said: just drink it up" (Cohen)

Stevesmith's picture

Old is gold,i don't think is true before visiting your site but i must say that there are some really helpful points for all and free.the article is great.Sweet Quotes

Drtrey3's picture

is turning into Leonard Cohen.

Cool or catastrophe?