LEONARD COHEN, You Want It Darker
And barely two weeks after it came out, Leonard has left us. I prefer to listen to albums for a while, let the records sink in. They are products of years of work. We should listen to them more before we commit to judgement. Cohen songs take years to write, and sometimes decades to reveal their full scope and glory. And, Leonard is gone. I thought he would be immortal. Like Prince, Lemmy, and oh my, David Bowie, I thought they'd just endure. Survive. Carry on somehow.
Ending on a glorious final stretch of creativity, (with four albums and an exhaustive concert set equating to practically one new album a year since 2012), You Want It Darker is a mellow, resigned set, where the intellect is on fire and the music is an exhausted sigh. Given that Cohen was 81 at the time of recording, it's no surprise that perhaps Cohen's contribution was limited to vocals and keyboards recorded in his home studio, augmented with the help of a band offsite and produced by his son. It's not a defiant exit, but a closing of the book. Even before his death, it felt, - like many of his albums always felt, actually – like a closing of the book, a final reckoning. Like a man staring at reality and trying to make peace with it.
There's no dimming of the flame with time intellectually. You might want it darker, and 2016 is the darkest year yet – practically unimaginable in the scale of the horror faced with Prince, Bowie, Lemmy, Brexit, Trump and Leonard himself – and yet, in all of this, there are traces and remains. Records are that, records. Memories. And from the title track - “You Want It Darker”, there's still this sense, this enormous weight, of so many great lost songs we will never hear him sing ; even though there's a recognition of time, when he whispers - “I'm ready, my lord” - that the race is run, that the time is out, that all things are coming to a natural end. And even in this, there is a sense of unhurried thought. Like his later records, the considered and thoughtful, this is a record of time, of contemplation. Music for thinking.