Cohen's Final Album Great in Its Own Right
I’m not Angry, and I Haven’t Been Crying, Leave Me Alone
“You Want It Darker” is a fantastic album on its own merits and compared to Leonard Cohen’s other albums.
Cohen’s album has the familiar too-many-cigarettes poetry lyrics you’d expect from him, with sweeping spiritual-sounding piano and organ, dark jazzy backgrounds and the overall feeling of having sweet nothings whispered to you at a picnic in a haunted cemetery.
It’s grim as hell. Cohen seems disappointed or resigned about everything on this album. The story he tells from start to finish seems like an exasperated dismissal of everything he’s loved or tried to love in his life. When he’s not looking behind him, shrugging his shoulders and muttering angrily, he’s looking forward with little feeling in his heart, and realizing there isn’t much left up there.
“Treaty” is the weariest anti-love song I have ever heard. If you follow it up with “Leaving the Table,” you’ve got a strong case to never date, love, marry or talk to another human being for the rest of your life. “Treaty” explores the resentment that turns into apathy as a relationship finishes its slow burn to ashes and drifts off in the breeze.
“Leaving the Table” seems like what proceeds chronologically from “Treaty” – a flat refusal to interested parties because no one brings anything to the table that you’re interested in anymore. Even having the discussion is a waste of time, though there’s a sinking feeling that time won’t be better spent on anything else, either.
“If I Didn’t Have Your Love” goes the other way, counting down a litany of horrible torments that would most likely be part of Cohen’s routine without that love. Even when he’s trying to be nice, he can only describe things in terms of rank awfulness, and then say “But being with you baby, it’s not like any of those things.”
“Steer Your Way” wins my black little heart, with a devilish fiddle melody and the sort of unapologetically cruel and jaded vocals I’ve come to love; Cohen is turning the razor against himself in this song.
Everything closes out with a sweet string melody, and a brief revisit to “Treaty.” He doesn’t sound angry anymore, just wistful and tired.
If I had anything like a complaint, the album feels short. It tells the story it sets out to tell, and it does it brilliantly. I think I just desperately want there to be more because it’s so damned good; knowing there won’t be compounds that grief. The way the last song ends leaves you patiently waiting, listening to nothing while holding your breath and hoping there’s a hidden track or an encore. There isn’t anything afterwards though, just silence.
Thank you, Mr. Cohen.
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