The Spinners

Songs from a Room (Leonard Cohen, 1968)

In Canadian, Folk, Rex Baylon on January 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm

It’s no exaggeration that Canadian-born singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen is a modern-day Ovid, an ancient sage bestowing wisdom to the masses through his sparse and melancholic lyrics. Often compared to Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, Cohen has completely devoted his work to dissecting the pain and embarrassment that entails all modern manifestations of love and its subsequent partner—sex.

For the novice a perfect introduction to his work would be his second album, Songs From A Room, a funerary dirge to the idealism of the 60’s peace and free love movement. Each track in the album is a mini-narrative about characters trying to cope with the schism among reality and the idealized constructions found in religious veneration, faith in political movements, and the association with a bohemian caste. Cohen believes that love for an idea is no safer and less fraught with betrayal than loving a person, and in fact, to him, we are all victims of our own blind adoration to those sacred cows that we gladly give up our free will to.

Songs like “The Partisan”, “The Old Revolution”, and “The Butcher” speak of knights-errant looking not for damsels to rescue but a modern-day chivalric code that can offer some sort of guide to how to live in a compromised world. And there are few songs that are so achingly beautiful as “Tonight Will Be Fine”, a deceptively simple song about a man who found love but was far too arrogant to give it back; and now is doomed to spend eternity living off of the hollow memories he has of his relationship with a woman who gave him her soul and all he offered in return was scorn.

Songs From A Room has been called dark and depressing—but come to think of it, we are always in constant search for something as achingly elusive as love. I guess that’s what life is most of the time.

– Rex Baylon

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