Top positive review
123 people found this helpful
Songs of Age and Loss
on 10 October 2001
After nine years since Leonard Cohen's last studio album The Future, was Ten New Songs worth the wait? Mostly, yes. There are three songs on the album which seem destined to join other Cohen classics - the pacy opening track "In My Secret Life", the rich and haunting "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and witty, urban-centered "Boogie Street" in which Cohen seems to be saying goodbye to his years as a zen monk on a mountain outside Los Angeles and coming back into the real world of traffic jams.
Another highlight is the death-haunted "Here It Is", which unexpectedly telescopes romantic love with sickness, drunken falls, bedpans "cardboard and piss" and the thudding, powerful "By the Rivers Dark" which celebrates a life torn between the pleasures of Babylon and a nameless destructive force.
Cohen's voice is as weatherbeaten and low as you'd expect, and if anything even deeper and lower than on The Future, and is beautifully counterpointed by co-writer Sharon Robinson's delicate choruses and backing. The most exquisitely melancholy song on the whole album is surely "Alexandra Leaving". Like so much of Cohen's music this is music for lonely listeners in lonely rooms, or lonely drivers heading across a quiet landscape at dusk.
Though Ten New Songs is synthesizer-based and has many stylistic similarities to The Future the album is significantly different and is much more personal, with no political/social commentary apart from the gestures of the disappointingly weak final track "The Land of Plenty". The arrangements are more stripped down than on The Future (not always a good thing - the synthesizer drumbeat is at times oddly amateurish). But the mild blemishes don't spoil the overall effect of the album, which is one of those that grows on you with repeated listening.
Cohen's often under-rated sense of humour is much in evidence, notably in the lines "I fought against the bottle, / But I had to do it drunk". So too is his lyric genius: the line "When hatred with his package comes" reverberates with somber meaning. These are songs of age and loss, rueful but life-affirming, with a sense of toughness and endurance.
On the whole, Ten New Songs is a mellow, haunting album. It's as good as, maybe even better than, The Future, but not quite up to the dazzling standard of I'm Your Man.