Columbia – 2001 – 52 minutes
In the nine years since his last album, the peerless poet of pessimism Leonard Cohen has spent six of them living as a Zen monk above the Los Angeles hills. Not exactly what you'd expect from a man who has spent the best part of 50 years in the throes of drugs and drink, while examining the darker niches of the human condition in his own inimitable way. And what about the celibacy? Well, as it happens, women were allowed in this particular monastery. Just as well, for a man who once sang about Janis Joplin “giving me head on an unmade bed”.
Now down from the mountain, Cohen makes a return with the simply titled 'Ten New Songs'. So have his monk years lifted Len's spirits? Thankfully, not much. 'In My Secret Life' suggests Cohen has come full circle, his voice instilled with an odd sense of comfortable resignation. Yet the old preoccupations remain the same. 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' draws the listener deeper in to the "invincible defeat" of Len's world, while 'Love Itself' is strong proof that the old master can still pen a lyrically sublime vignette of doomed love.
Musically, the production has a synthy, almost 80s feel to it. But it's the voice and the words that are always going to be the fascination with any new Cohen release. The wry humour is still there too. "I'm back on Boogie Street" he drawls on the penultimate track – yeah, right Len, like you knew what boogie meant.
'Ten New Songs' proves that at 67, Leonard Cohen is still looking for some answers. Long may he continue to search.
Tracklisting: In My Secret Life – A Thousand Kisses Deep – That Don't Make It Junk – Here It Is – Love Itself – By The Rivers Dark – Alexandra Leaving – You Have Loved Enough – Boogie Street – The Land Of Plenty