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Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:18 pm
by jarkko
A very good review in Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki, Finland) by Pirkko Kotirinta:
Kerta kerralta pelkistetymmin

Kulttuuri 17.9.2014
Pirkko Kotirinta
Leonard Cohen yllätti kaikki kuusi vuotta sitten 2008 palatessaan yli 15 vuoden luostarikautensa ja muun hiljaiselonsa jälkeen menestyksellisesti konserttiareenoille.

Vuonna 2012 hän julkaisi suuren mediakohun saattelemana 12:nnen studioalbuminsa Old Ideas ja teki silloinkin pitkän kiertueen.

Nyt tien päälle lähtemisestä ei ole tietoa, mutta 80-vuotispäivänsä (21. syyskuuta) alla kanadalainen säkeiden syväsukeltaja julkaisee studioalbumin, jossa riittää taas kerroksia kuorittaviksi pimeneviin syysiltoihin. Jos tässä tähtiä jaettaisiin, antaisin Popular Problemsille niitä ainakin neljä, ellen viisi.

Cohen nimittäin tekee sen mitä osaa aina vain paremmin.

Avaus Slow on konstailemattomaan bluesiin puettu monimielinen hitauden ylistys. Sen möreyttä seuraa Almost Like the Bluesin kirkkaampi pianosoundi, mutta sanat uivat synkemmissä vesissä, itseironiaa toki unohtamatta; maailmassa on kidutusta ja tappamista ja "kaikki huonot arvosteluni", yhdistelee Cohen mittakaavaltaan eri kaliiberin asioita. Bluesissa on taikaa, kantriotteessa ei niinkään.

Cohenin matalaa puhelaulua säestävät totuttuun tapaan heleät naisäänet. Tällä kertaa ne kuuluvat Charlean Carmonille ja Dana Gloverille. Helmiin lukeutuvan Nevermindin monotonisen pulssin rikkoo naisäänen arabiankielinen osuus.

Säveltäjänä rinnalla on jo edellisellä levyllä piipahtanut Patrick Leonard. Cohenin ja Leonardin (s. 1955) kemiat tuntuvat kohdanneen mitä luontevimmin, vaikka P. Leonardin aiempi meriittilista Madonna -projekteineen on musiikillisesti suhteellisen kaukana Cohen-sfääreistä.

Popular Problems on omistettu Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshille (1907–2014), jonka opissa Mount Baldyn zen-keskuksessa Kaliforniassa Cohen vietti 1990-luvun lopun. Siitä on jo aikaa.

Ja kaikesta muustakin on aikaa, kuten The Street tiivistää maallisinkin vertauskuvin: viiniä ja ruusuja riittää ja samppanjaa magnumin mitassa, mutta humalasta ei koskaan enää tule yhtä juovuttava kuin silloin joskus.

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:59 pm
by Jean Fournell
Imho, basecamp's "Der Spiegel" review ... 91738.html deserves better than a machine translation. So I tried some polishing:

"There's torture, and there's killing, and there's all my bad reviews ... it's almost like the Blues", Leonard Cohen hoarsely murmurs in "Almost Like The Blues", one of those mocking monuments of Song, taking seriously nothing and all, and which he wrested from himself in long hours, lying in chains in the Tower of Song, of course. Bad reviews? A joke, naturally. A Methuselah like Cohen is long above criticism, if ever there had been any in the last 20 years. In order to be able to release [Popular Problems] in time for his 80th birthday, the personified Writer's block really went for it: Only two years have passed since his last magnificent album "Old Ideas".

But whoever might have expected that in such a short time no masterpiece can follow the previous one, is mistaken: "Popular Problems" is another triumph of laconism, of the lustful quarrelling with theological as well as with amorous questions, with heaven and hell.

A fool, however, who would believe that Cohen works in a linear way. Some of the songs on "Popular Problems" are decades old, "Born In Chains" for example, the only one on the album that is not written in collaboration with the composer and musical director Patrick Leonard and also the only one with which Cohen, as he told the "Guardian", is still not a hundred percent satisfied. He says he has spent 40 years working on the song, re-writing it again and again. What it is about? It is about Cohen's relation to God, of course, forever plagued with doubt and Job-like scepticism, and he still has not really sorted it all out yet. The more secular "A Street", in a first version, was written as early as right after what happened on 11th September 2001, in New York. It contains the likewise oppressive and comforting coda: "The party's over / but I've landed on my feet / I'll be standing on this corner / Where there used / To be a street"

The pair "Did I Ever Love You" and "My Oh My", dedicated to love, are almost too hit parade conventional to stand their ground against the concentrated basic mood of the album, mostly reduced to bass groove, organ or piano plus backing vocals; both would not have been really necessary. All the more powerful, sinister, diabolical Cohen appears in the Soul funk of "Nevermind" with its dressing of oriental singing: "I live among you, well disguised" he breathes at the end, as though he, the exegete of Kabbalah mysticism, were a Sleeper Agent, still waiting to be activated, first to conquer Manhattan, then Berlin.

"Almost Like The Blues", already mentioned, and "Slow", likewise are fevered and soulful: a mildly caustic rejection addressed to all those who already imagine the aged Grandseigneur close to the grave: "It's not because I'm old / It's not what dying does / I always liked it slow / Slow is in my blood." So God, if He exists, is likely once more to be tearing at His white hair because of all the problems that His grey-haired little sheep Leonard is pondering here, a dialogue, going on for almost 50 years now, with himself, with fate and with faith. May He for a long time yet refuse entry to heaven to this fanciful debater. However loud he might be singing "Hallelujah". Andreas Borcholte

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:13 am
by yoeri
Half an hour talking about Popular Problems on Flemish Radio 1, with small excerpts of L Cohen himself in London: ... n-probleem

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:43 am
by MarieM
A very good review in Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki, Finland) by Pirkko Kotirinta:
Would it be possible for someone to translate this review, or just the good parts. I've used three different translation softwares and I am just getting gibberish. Thanks.

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 10:14 am
by jdhayes
"Would it be possible for someone to translate this review, or just the good parts. I've used three different translation softwares and I am just getting gibberish" -
It's almost like the Blues!

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 2:08 pm
by jarkko
Soundi, the leading music magazine in Finland, finds the album brilliant, and gives *****/*****
Also a great drawing of Leonard.
Uploaded to

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 2:21 pm
by JudasPriest

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:21 pm
by yoeri
In Dutch: ... laat.dhtml

"Wonderful disk, to enjoy slowly."

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:32 pm
by yoeri
Great review in Dutch, and with links to videos, one even dating back to Cohen in Belgium in 1972!

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:55 pm
by Born With The Gift Of A G
Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems


Will Hodgkinson

The Times

Last updated at 12:01AM, September 19 2014

Practical demands shape fates and careers, and rarely more so than Leonard Cohen’s. In 1994 Cohen, never one to inhabit comfortably the gilded hotel suite of the rock star, ducked out of fame to enter into spiritual study and contemplation in a Buddhist monastery. He would most likely have remained there had not his former manager disappeared with a large part of his retirement fund. Cohen was forced back out on to the world stage in 2008, and now comes his 13th album, to be released a day after his 80th birthday.

Popular Problems slips into the musical style in which Cohen is most at home — a slow urban blues, his gruff patrician’s voice riding over sweet female harmonies and church organ hums — and he brings to his familiar combination of poetic straight-talking and obscure imagery a tone of acceptance and resigned humour. On Almost Like the Blues he lists all kinds of horrors to a jazzy piano backing before getting to the point of what really bothers him: “There’s torture and there’s killing — and there’s all my bad reviews.” On the same song he takes on Richard Dawkins types who would profess to know all the answers to life on material terms: “There is no God in Heaven, and there is no Hell below. So says the great professor of all there is to know.”

Nobody can write a love song like Leonard Cohen. There’s something hugely romantic in the way he combines universal themes of longing with tiny, telling details. His early masterpiece Suzanne is the most exquisite example of this, and he has a late-life Suzanne moment on Did I Ever Love You, which, although not quite on that level, shares its blend of imagery and sentiment. “The lemon trees blossom, the almond trees wither, was I ever someone who could love you for ever?” he sings in a semi-talked whisper, answering his own question in the process. (No, he wasn’t.)

A Leonard Cohen album takes patience at the best of times, but this one is positively funereal. At least you can’t accuse him of making false promises: he opens with Slow, his apology for being the musical equivalent of an African land snail. He lavishly rewards the careful listener, though. Less obtuse than Bob Dylan, more outward-looking than Neil Young, he’s the closest that Sixties music culture got to a John Updike figure, mirroring the lives of his listeners through expressions of, as he puts it, popular problems. A Street was written after 9/11 and Samson in New Orleans is a hymnal, mournful reflection on the US government’s desertion of the city after Hurricane Katrina, but Cohen only ever writes as a man trying to work things out, not one who knows who to point the finger at.

That must be why he takes things slow. It puts him in a better position to soak in life’s absurdities and profundities, and it allows him to make albums with such gracefully revealed wisdom as this one.

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 7:29 pm
by sirius
Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems review – an octogenarian rejuvenated

Financial worries may be driving his comeback, but Leonard Cohen’s songs of despair have never sounded so full of life – and you can hear this new album in full here ... bum-review

Alexis Petridis
The Guardian, Thursday 18 September 2014

Leonard Cohen In uncharted territory … Leonard Cohen

It is hard to elicit goodwill for someone who stole £5m from a pensioner, but perhaps anyone who loves Leonard Cohen’s music owes his former manager Kelley Lynch a grudging debt of thanks. It’s strange to imagine now, but when Cohen’s 11th studio album, Dear Heather, was released a decade ago, it was widely received as his farewell. It wasn’t just that Cohen was 70 years old: everything about Dear Heather suggested a man in the process of disappearing from music. His voice had already left the building: only a ghostly whisper remained, and Sharon Robinson and Cohen’s partner Anjani Thomas were often more in evidence than the man whose name was on the sleeve. There was a certain finality about the lyrics, but the album itself seemed half-finished, as if Cohen was losing interest or had his mind elsewhere – quite possibly up Mount Baldy, at the Zen Buddhist retreat where he’d been ordained as a monk. Instead of complete songs, there were recitations of poems, not all of them by Cohen, set to vague jazz accompaniments. A 20-year-old live recording of a cover of Tennessee Waltz – taped off the radio, no less – was tacked on the end, as if to make up the numbers.

That, of course, was before it emerged that Lynch had embezzled most of the singer’s pension fund. Cohen and his associates have never made any bones about the fact that his subsequent work, not least the apparently never-ending touring, has been motivated by a need for cash, but no one seems to mind, possibly because few artists have ever done it for the money with quite the elegance and warmth that Cohen displays on stage, singing the songs that no longer earn him a cent in royalties. And whatever the initial incentive, being forced back to work seemed to spark Cohen’s creativity. A man who seemed to be running dry discovered he had much more to say musically and, moreover, that he was now broadcasting it from uncharted territory for rock music. Cohen turns 80 this weekend: few artists have continued writing and recording so late in their lives, and certainly no one as poetically gifted as Cohen has.

“The party’s over, but I’ve landed on my feet,” he sings at one juncture on Popular Problems, neatly summarising this ongoing state of affairs, and as on its 2012 predecessor, Old Ideas, you can hear everywhere on his 13th album the rejuvenating effect of what should have spelt disaster. An artist who 10 years ago could make finishing an album seem like a tough call now makes it sound effortless. Nothing here feels laboured: he can deliver songs as beautifully wrought as Samson in New Orleans – a depiction of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina – with a gorgeous understatement that only magnifies its impact: “And we who cried for mercy from the bottom of the pit/ Was our prayer so damn unworthy that the sun rejected it?”

Once wasted to a thin, papery sliver, his voice seems to have been bulked up by regular exercise.For a mercy, someone has clearly done what Sharon Robinson once sighingly concluded that she could not, and disabused Cohen of the notion that his songs are best accompanied by the kind of cheesy synthesiser and bum-tish drum-machine backing that is redolent of the provincial hotel bar and the working men’s club turn. Instead, the music, devised largely by producer Patrick Leonard – best known for having helped pilot Madonna’s albums between True Blue and Ray of Light, which gives us the improbable image of Leonard Cohen collaborating with the co-author of Hanky Panky – is sparse, urgent and diverse: there are gospel-infused organs, the chorus of Did I Ever Love You spins off into country, My Oh My arrives decorated with southern soul horns, Nevermind offers a curious collision of brooding, electric-piano-driven funk and keening female vocals.

As for what Cohen has to tell the world about life in your ninth decade, the short answer seems to be: you think about death a great deal. The Grim Reaper keeps making his presence felt, whether in New Orleans, on foreign battlefields or closer to home: the first thing you hear is Cohen contemplating his own mortality on Slow. But for all his description of the album’s tone as being one of “despair”, it feels anything but hopeless. Slow finds him pleading for more time with an oddly lubricious swagger: “Let me catch my breath,” he growls, “I thought we had all night”. In what has thus far proved the album’s most quoted line, he suddenly throws a joke into a stark description of the atrocities man inflicts on man: “There’s torture and there’s killing and all my bad reviews.” You laugh, not least because it suggests Leonard Cohen is possessed of a good memory: it’s a long time indeed since critics did anything other than try elbow each other out of the way to garland him with praise. And then you think: yeah, that’s probably exactly what it’s like. You start out sorrowfully reflecting on the state of humanity, bolstered by the wisdom of age, but end up sidetracked by some niggling personal slight from 40 years ago.

It ends with Cohen accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a down-home fiddle. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine the song is meant as a backhanded compliment tossed his former manager’s way: “You got me singing even though the world is gone, you got me thinking I’d like to carry on.” That is apparently what Cohen intends to do, 80th birthday or not. He has talked of another album, of sharpening up the songs on Popular Problems over hundreds of gigs. What may well be the greatest case of needs must in rock history looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Irish Independent - Lenny is still our man

Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:37 am
by johnos

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 1:24 pm
by terok
MarieM wrote:
A very good review in Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki, Finland) by Pirkko Kotirinta:
Would it be possible for someone to translate this review, or just the good parts. I've used three different translation softwares and I am just getting gibberish. Thanks.
I did my best, it wasn't much, but maybe it gives a general idea:

More plain time after time

LC surprised everyone six years ago in 2008 returning successfully into concert arenas after 15 years of monastery and otherwise quiet life.

In 2012 he released his 12th studioalbum OI after big media hullaballoo, and made a long tour then also.

Now there's no info about touring, but on his 80th b'day (21.9.) Canadian deepwater diver of verses will release another studio album, with
layers to peel in dark autumn evenings. If I was to grade the album by stars, PP would get at least 4, if not 5.

You see, Cohen is doing what he does best better and better every time.

Opening, 'Slow', is an ambiguous celebration to slowness, dressed up in a simple blues. It's gruffiness is followed by a lighter pianosound
of Almost Like the Blues, but the lyrics keep swimming in deeper waters, though not forgetting self-irony; in the world there's torture and
killing, and 'all my bad reviews', as Cohen puts together things from different scales. Blues has magic, country-touch not so much. (I don't
understand the last sentence in Finnish either)

Cohen's lowkey speech-singing is accompanied by bright female voices, this time belonging to Charlean Carmon and Dana Glover. The monotonic
pulse of one of the pearls, 'Nevermind', is broken by an arabic section by a female voice.

Co-composer on the album is Patrick Leonard, who visited already on the previous album. Cohen's and Leonard's (born 1955) chemistries seem
to have met most smoothly, although P. Leonard prior merit list with it's projects with Madonna is musically relatively far from Cohen-sphere.

PP is dedicated to Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi (1907–2014), who taught Cohen in a Zen-center on Mt. Baldy in late 1990's. It's been a while.

And it has been a while from everything else also, as 'The Street' summarizes by even profane allegories: there's wine and roses, and Champagne
measured by magnums, but you never get as drunk as you once did.

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 5:40 pm
by Born With The Gift Of A G

Re: Popular Problems - Album Reviews

Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 6:47 pm
by SilverE
Spot the deliberate mistake in this one! ... -1-3548111