From the first lyric of the album, “I love to speak with Leonard. He’s a sportsman and a shepherd. He’s a lazy bastard, living in a suit,” Leonard Cohen welcomes you to his thoughts and reflections on being human. And yes, this sounds like the Leonard Cohen you’re hoping for.
The subject matter of his newest album, Old Ideas, is both familiar and new to fans of Cohen. We all recognize his incredibly defined voice. His deep, comforting, almost monotone, vocals are as much a trademark of his music as his profound and often provocative words. Both feel right at home with songs about love and perversion, the balance — and at times, the battle — between the animal and the intellectual that live inside us all.
The soft piano and the gospel choir singing back up on “Show Me the Place” are contrasted by the dark, bluesy drive of the following song, “The Darkness.” And while this is one example, every song holds its own against the previous, almost as if the album flows in defiance of expectation, changing and shrugging at predictability.
The album’s constant twists keep you on your toes. Some of the songs feel like familiar territory for the road-worn poet, but it never feels like he’s rehashing something or treading shallow water. Cohen has always dealt with the human condition masterfully, and on Old Ideas he tackles everything head on. We may be used to some of the subject matter, but with age, Cohen’s ability to expose his thoughts on sex, death and love have only grown stronger and more lucid.
There’s an underlying tone to the album though — one that changes the way you listen to it — it is unsaid, but it is heavily explored within these songs.