Highlights: Slow, Samson In New Orleans, A Street, Did I Ever Love You, You Got Me Singing
I don’t know if Leonard Cohen is getting better with years, but he sure as hell is not getting any worse. Which, considering the taste and the class matched by few, is more than enough. I can only wish he could do this over and over again, once every two or three years.
If this album differs in any way from Old Ideas, his previous LP, you won’t notice it. It’s your favourite night-time read: nocturnal, poetic, nostalgic, powerful. Leonard Cohen is where you can say ‘deep’ without sounding silly or pretentious. It’s 40 minutes of therapy by way of understatement, introspection, effective arrangements and female backup vocals.
I guess the only moment of relative surprise happens during “Nevermind” that features some unexpected Eastern-flavoured vocalising. Still, it gets soaked up in Cohen’s smothering vibe. Truly this album melts everything in its wise, wistful warmth. It could even melt a modern heart.
“I always liked it slow, I never liked it fast”… “Slow” sets the mood in style. As ever, there is a softly spoken verse that grows into a softly spoken chorus. And for all its subtleties and understatement – it’s always wonderful to realise how catchy his songs are. The chorus of “A Street”, for instance, is one of the sweetest things I’ve heard all year. “My Oh My”, too, is goddamn upbeat. Few things in the world are more unlikely and less irresistible than a Leonard Cohen vocal hook. The absolute favourite, though, is “Did I Ever Love You” (you can certainly picture Tom Waits giving this one a good go), as good and bitterly romantic a ballad as he has ever written.
Popular Problems is a minor masterpiece. Leonard Cohen is like moulded cheese where cheese stays the same and mould just gets better and better. If you find any of it boring, you should just admit that you’ve fucked it up as a human being.