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| 15 October 2014 | Reply

October 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems cover

For some, the law of diminishing returns simply does not apply. Leonard Cohen recently became a octogenarian, yet here he is delivering one of the albums of the year.

Having spent a few years halfway up a mountain studying meditation with a Buddhist master, Cohen knows a thing or two about zen, and here he remains calm, measured and in control at all times, always understated, but never underplaying his hand.

That time in the monastery didn’t affect the old rascal’s libido though – oh no! He’s at his flirty best on opening track Slow, letting his band loose on a smoky jazz/blues café track that perfectly complements the rasp that the old poet has earned in his voice.

Elsewhere songs allude to the media and war – popular problems by virtue of their ubiquitousness – and love is never far from his thoughts, be it physical or emotional. That in itself must be the most popular problem on the planet, one which we all always return to for more.

Far more organic than much of his drum-machine-backed ‘80s material, Popular Problems features only nine songs – but every one is a standout. Almost Like The Blues should be on the radio tomorrow (though they will more than likely just revisit 1967 Suzanne), Samson In New Orleans and A Street are poetry made music that will stop you in your tracks, Nevermind ruminates upon displaced races with a moving Arabic backing vocal that has echoes of Clare Torrys contribution to Pink Floyd’s Great Gig In The Sky.

Born In Chains – the only track here not co-written – addresses his Jewish heritage, while closer You Got Me Singing seems our hero is rising above all those problems, and revelling in still singing – “You got me singing even though the world is gone/ You got me thinking that I’d like to carry on/ You got me singing even though it all looks grim/ You got me singing the Hallelujah hymn.”

This is as close to church as you’ll see me this year, but I plan to visit it often and can’t praise it enough.

Thanks to Sony we have a few copies of POPULAR PROBLEMS to give away (Australian residents only) – email and tell us your favourite Leonard Cohen song, and your mailing address, for your chance to win! [Closes Friday 17 October midday AWST, our decision is final, Australian residents only, etc etc]

Category: CD Reviews

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