Monday, May 17, 2010

Songs Of Leonard Cohen: A Sinister Grace

"I'm cold as a new razor blade"
In the final days of 1967 a sinister beauty was born. Songs of Leonard Cohen was cast out upon the world “like an escaped ski” caressing the contours of an avalanche. During the following year as Cohen's fame grew, the stench of napalm and tear gas overtook incense and peppermint in the streets of Saigon, Paris and Chicago.
"Yes you who must leave everything
That you cannot control
It begins with your family,
But soon it comes around to your soul"

- Sisters of Mercy
Songs was an antidote to the times. Cohen internalized the turbulence of the sixties, drawing upon his own experiences to find expression for the violent dualities of the era. He once said, “your most particular answer will be your most universal” and Songs tames the chaos of his internal life into something resembling a cruel and febrile grace.

Cohen was our man in black, Canada's own Bob Dylan who emerged from the dark forests of the east brandishing a jew’s harp instead of a harmonica. He had more in common with the French chansons tradition of Jacques Brel or Serge Gainsbourg than Woody Guthrie. By the time his debut was released, he was already an acomplished author and poet and had developed a highly sophisticated aethetic that blended a chilling lucidity with the darkest of humour.
I lit a thin green candle, to make you jealous of me.
But the room just filled up with mosquitos
They heard that my body was free.

- One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong
Dylan once remarked that Cohen’s songs are like prayers and it’s this devotional attachment, a resolve to pursue the mechanics of salvation, which sets his work apart from others. Songs is as deep and darkly luminous as a canvass by Caravaggio or Rembrandt. Forty years-three later, it occupies a privileged place in the tower of song.

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