Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Leonard Cohen: Ten New Songs [Columbia, 2001]
In February, Cohen put out the presciently entitled Field Commander Cohen--recorded live in 1979, when he could still carry a tune if he brought his luggage wheels. It sounded too suave somehow, too sure of its next whiskey bar. But by August, well before history put in an emergency call for voices of doom, the sepulchral croak here seemed spot on. Breaking a nine-year silence, the first four tracks have nothing to do with history except insofar as history is in league with death. But they're as powerful as any he's written--especially "In My Secret Life," about hiding from your conscience in the crevices of your good intentions, and "Here It Is," about the ultimate futility of all hello goodbye. And although he couldn't have known how close to the bone the finale would cut, try these two couplets: "For what's left of our religion/I lift my voice and pray" and "May the lights in The Land of Plenty/Shine on the truth some day." Both beat "God bless America" by a country mile. Well, don't they? A-