Leonard Cohen
Songs of Love and Hate


4.5
superb

Review

by Eric USER (161 Reviews)
November 21st, 2010 | 69 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: haggard and gaunt, strumming away deliberately like it’ll somehow revive his unrelenting sickness if he only musters up enough passion...

Having heard it or not, chances are you know well that Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate is held in high regards. Artists from Nick Cave to Kurt Cobain cite Cohen’s gloomy, stark folk as a major factor in their own work, and the Canadian’s influence is pretty palpable in many of the past decade’s most prolific singer-songwriters. Personally, I was introduced to Cohen through his poetry, for which he is likely better-known for, not his music. His poem “Story of Isaac” and its dual-portrayal of of both war and Cohen’s adamantly strict religious upbringing still astounds me now as much as it did a few years ago upon discovery. So, when I heard the likes of “Joan of Arc” and “Avalanche,” I was at once in awe at his lyrical virtuosity, but admittedly unsurprised. Twisting metaphors and maze-like wordplay run rampant throughout Songs of Love and Hate, and Cohen is wide-known as one of the best songwriters to grace the century for ample reason. Given these glowing memories and high expectations of my own, it was other aspects that make Leonard Cohen’s Songs so astounding upon revisiting the album after fully absorbing all the singer-songwriter children that were born from Cohen’s desolate, seminal album.

Cohen, on nearly every record, sounds disoriented and depressed, utterly disenchanted. Songs of Love and Hate, as the title seems to cue, takes this element to new, even uncharacteristic, levels for Cohen. The semblances of coherence on his other records, even if they were coherently depressive, seem to have vanished on Songs, reflecting this particularly tumultuous personal period in Cohen’s life. This quality --whether the aftereffects are positive or negative-- become Songs’ most outstanding feature. Cohen’s musky voice is uncomfortable throughout, but reaches new strained heights on “Diamonds In The Mine.” The slinky finger-picking certainly creates a mood, which works stunningly on Cohen’s masterpiece, “Avalanche,” but the frail Canadian poet sounds near to crumbling under the heavy weight of his own music. Listening to Songs of Love and Hate, I can picture Cohen, haggard and gaunt, but strumming away deliberately like it’ll somehow revive his unrelenting sickness if he only musters up enough passion.

I’ve heard praise for Cohen’s songwriting to no end, but it’s painful reading criticisms like “Cohen’s best when his songs are being sung by someone else.” This compromise of Cohen’s artistry is somewhat understandable, as Cohen’s vocals, especially on Songs, are particularly abrasive. Instead of building momentum, he lets the space in-between utterances build a drafty ambience. It’s not the most endearing technique, but it is effective. The weighty emotional content means Cohen loses some precision, this much is evident. Though, the heavy atmosphere lays like a dense fog over the entirety, enveloping Songs of Love and Hate in onerous passion. In short, it’s unexpectedly heavy.

I find Songs of Love and Hate particularly meaningful though, years later after first hearing it. Learning to enjoy the complexities of Leonard Cohen’s stark emotional soundscapes was a difficult task, but revisiting the record after listening to his singer-songwriter predecessors that had also been so deeply moved by Cohen makes the experience all the more gratifying. His artistic career spanned an illustrious five decades, but not one recording catches him at such a threadbare, painfully-sincere epoch in his life. Songs of Love and Hate is Leonard Cohen stripped-down and thin. As sparse as Cohen’s home country, and as desolate and melancholic as it may be, the seminal folk album makes its footprint so deep not by striving for perfection, or even beauty for that matter, but by stripping away all elegance and grace, leaving us with one of the most sincere forms of heaviness to have graced my headphones.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
November 21st 2010


20557 Comments


SeaAnemone tries his hand at a classic...


an old favorite of mine. could use a more current review. and to refute rabbit's claim that I listen to no older music (I know it's not 60's but it's close).

Digging: Dirty Beaches - Stateless

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2010


16455 Comments


i love 'joan of arc' need to listen to this again...it's been years

Digging: Zella Day - Zella Day

AtavanHalen
November 22nd 2010


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Review needs less talking about you, but is otherwise sound.

ShadowRemains
November 22nd 2010


21059 Comments


lol don't listen to rabbit

good review, pos'd, but atavan's point is valid

Digging: Execration (NOR) - Morbid Dimensions

SeaAnemone
November 22nd 2010


20557 Comments


I hardly ever complain about honest criticism buuuuuut...

I did use myself sparingly in the first and last paragraphs atavan, and I think it adds to the review seeing as it shows
the approach to listening and analyzing the album that I do now. I don't do it often in my reviews, but I think it adds
color and can be helpful in some situations. I've seen some of the best writers on the site use first person to their
advantage.

What do you think?

Regardless, thanks for reading and commenting on the writing

EDIT: PS if you're referring to that first paragraph that was there, that wasn't supposed to be there! an alternate
start that I didn't mean to copy/paste

AtavanHalen
November 22nd 2010


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I hate personal pronouns in reviews, it makes me think the reviewer can't go for a couple of hundred words talking about something that isn't themselves without bringing themselves up. "Sure, this happened, but more about me!"

This would be a much better review if it had no "I, me, my"

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2010


16455 Comments


i dont know, first person definitely has its place as long as the writer knows how to utilize it to his advantage...

SeaAnemone
November 22nd 2010


20557 Comments


I think it's like almost any other element in a review-- it can be a nice tool when used correctly.

I mean if you think it's used badly in a review, then please by all means tell me how/why : )

But don't you think it's a little dumb going around to every review with "I" in it just to complain about the general use of this?

Like I said, some of the best-written reviews on the site, I think, by some of the best writers, utilize first-person.

Don't wanna sound like a jerk, but yeah I disagree : /

EVedder27
November 22nd 2010


6088 Comments


something tells me i would really like this

AtavanHalen
November 22nd 2010


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't think it's a nice tool at all. I tried it once and then decided it was stupid. The review is not about you, so don't talk about you. Simple as that.

SeaAnemone
November 22nd 2010


20557 Comments


yeah but it is about my analysis of the record.


and yeah Mike you'd reeeaaaallllyyy like this, really.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2010


15052 Comments


I hate personal pronouns in reviews, it makes me think the reviewer can't go for a couple of hundred words talking about something that isn't themselves without bringing themselves up. "Sure, this happened, but more about me!"

This would be a much better review if it had no "I, me, my"


no no no no no no no no stop no fuck no

this is stupid dont listen to atavan please seaanenome jesus christ no this is the WORST fucking advice

AtavanHalen
November 22nd 2010


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That goes without saying - you don't need to use personal pronouns to present an opinion in a review. It's as simple as that.

SeaAnemone
November 22nd 2010


20557 Comments


you don't need to use personal pronouns to present an opinion in a review


please stop acting dumb. obviously I know this. like I said, I think it's a tool that can accentuate a review. nothing you have said says otherwise other than "I tried it once and it didn't go well."

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2010


15052 Comments


atavan you have this same complaint with the best of reviews i really think its time you learned that
its you, not them

the worst thing a reviewer can do is skew the first person (in an OPINION piece) with dumb shit like
"you" or "we" or, god forbid, "the listener" (everyone does this at some point including me its a hard
habit to break)

ShadowRemains
November 22nd 2010


21059 Comments


guys let's not let shit hit the fan here

AtavanHalen
November 22nd 2010


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

How does it accentuate the review? Explain that one. All it does is make the writer look less professional.

conradtao
Emeritus
November 22nd 2010


2090 Comments


It adds a personable touch and makes the review more enjoyable to read.

couldwinarabbit
November 22nd 2010


6996 Comments


Even in a formal essay you can use the first person guys.

Great review Sea. This is like on par with Elliott Smith for deep intimate saddness falling short of Tom Waits in said category.

ShadowRemains
November 22nd 2010


21059 Comments


@robertsona: i've used "the listener" before in my reviews and never really had any complaints



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