1992, Music

The Future (1992) by Leonard Cohen

At this point I still haven’t heard much Leonard Cohen. It feels like it’s this gaping hole in my musical knowledge, particularly given that I am also Canadian. Now that he is dead, it feels like I really failed to give him his due in his lifetime, given that he is one of the Great Canadian Songwriters, and maybe even one of the greatest English language songwriters (though I have not heard anywhere near enough to agree or disagree with that).

I find myself listening more often to his less classic albums when I do get around to him, and that is giving me a really weird perspective. This one appears to have a mixed reputation but more people think it’s more classic than not, certainly compared to his records immediately preceding it.

What I find while listening to this particular version of him is that the lyrics are dense and provocative. Cohen’s lyrics are among the densest post-Dylan lyrics I have ever heard. Having now heard three of his albums, and having listened to an absolute ton of other songwriters from his generation, I feel like it’s safe to say that Cohen is perhaps the only post-Dylan songwriter to really create the dense tapestries of words that Dylan did in his prime. (That is not to say their lyrics are similar, just to say that Cohen is perhaps the only other English-language lyricist I’m aware of who might warrant his own university-level course.)

But the music: it is very contemporary (“modern” for the time) and very much full of sounds one would associate with the adult contemporary of the day. On some tracks it’s better than others, but some tracks have elements that just about scream out their era. Dated production is one of my pet peeves and there are a number of songs here which would really benefit from some more traditional instrumentation.

But Cohen’s songs are strong enough that I can usually forgive this. And though I don’t know the originals of the covers, Cohen’s versions sound to me like they are Leonard Cohen songs, without the famous lyrics, so that’s something.

I can’t say where this stands in the catalogue but I definitely like it less than the earliest record of his I’ve heard. It’s a little too ’90s adult contemporary for me. But Cohen remains (nearly) a peerless lyricist.


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