Leonard Cohen + Craig Finn | Tracks
Cohen and Finn are two of our great lyricists. And the characters in their new songs are fantastic bastards.
Published: January 25, 2012
Cohen’s a legend, but his last couple of records have been cheap and churchy. Poetry alone was not enough to carry his tired, plastic jazz, all nylon guitars trickling over the shoop shoop of antiseptic soul singers. And that was in 2004. Now that he’s nearing 80, what vivacity would be left? Quite a bit, it turns out. Ten New Songs and Dear Heather chronicled a former bad-ass grown reformed, retired and religious. “Darkness” flips the script. Those polite lounge sounds remain, but some subterranean sleaze steams through the cracks. Saloon piano rumbles in the distance—not as an echo of some louche past, but as a hint of danger yet to come. “I don’t smoke no cigarettes / I don’t drink no alcohol / I used to love the rainbow,” Cohen mutters under his fedora. But a woman is about to ruin that. “You’re young and it was summer,” he croaks. “Darkness was the prize.” It’s cool to know a geezer can still be corrupted.
Like Cohen, Finn is a writer, not a singer. Judging one of his songs in the Hold Steady for its melodies is missing the point. Finn’s songs live or die by their words. On his first solo outing, he can fully spiel. He puts aside trying to be AC/DC and focuses on that disgruntled accountant delivery and characters who dwell in downtown bars. Dabbling with country music was inevitable. Finn’s tales are endearing portraits of deadbeats and the downtrodden, only teenagers are his truckers. The dude in “No Future,” the least hillbilly tune on the record, wanders through a lot of his songs. A Grain Belt swigger who holds Freddie Mercury and Johnny Rotten as philosophers, he quips, “I’m alive, except for the inside.” As a rumbling bass chugs along, his will to live grows, if only out of spite. You’d hate the guy, if he didn’t spit a line as great as, “The devil’s a person / I met him at the Riverside Perkins.”
Finn hits Empty Bottle Tuesday 7.