NME.com, UK
March 2002

Cohen, Leonard: Ten New Songs

by John Mulvey

Contributed by Judith Fitzgerald

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Even his most optimistic fans could've been forgiven for thinking that they'd heard the last of Leonard Cohen, the most urbanely depressed of rock's elder statesmen. After all, he's just turned 67, hasn't released an album in nine years and, most pertinently, appeared to have found contentment of sorts living as a Buddhist monk in California.

Fears of a red wine and cigarette-free meditation CD can be allayed, however. Ten New Songs addresses Cohen's prospects of redemption more optimistically than usual, but it remains packed with the qualities that have inspired at least three generations of self-conscious miserablilists. There's that lugubrious approximation of singing, a voice so heavy on experience it makes Lou Reed sound like Chris Martin. There are the vivid poetics, too graceful to be dismissed as pretentious. And, in common with 1992's The Future, there's a rather cheesy synth production, just about subtle enough not to distract from Cohen's enduringly fine songs.

"A Thousand Kisses Deep" and "By The Rivers Dark" are both superb slow cruises into Cohen's psyche, as he ponders ageing and past misdemeanours and opens tentative negotiations with life outside the monastery; "I'm back on Boogie Street" is a quaint recurring theme. Overall, it's a terrible place to be introduced to Cohen - try his Greatest Hits for more stylishly-arranged bedsit grief - but nevertheless, beneath the plasticky politeness is the same old wry fatalism that the likes of Smog continue to strive for. Life's a bitch and then you die, but in Cohen's case, nowhere near as early as he imagined.

Rating: 7

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