In the wake of personal tragedy, for a musician or an artist especially, it can sometimes feel like the whole world is watching your next move, to see how you’ve dealt with the harrowing circumstances.
I don’t want to get too hung up on the terribly sad death of Peaches Geldof and how it may have affected ex-S.C.U.M. front-man Thomas Cohen, because firstly; all the questions have been asked and answered, and it’s all already been scrutinised by the media. However secondly, and more importantly, Bloom Forever is an album that is worthy of and warrants it’s own attention, separate from the private life that inspired it.
Make no mistake, this album does gives us a slight insight into the grief and pain that Cohen felt in the wake of such a tragedy, but the predominant feelings that this album generate are a sense of acceptance after the grief, and a great maturity and wisdom from Cohen, which is surprising given that he’s only 25 years of age, and that this is also his debut release. Bloom Forever is an album with songs about overcoming and finally seeing the sunrise; that look forward to not only the man’s personal future, but his individualistic career as a songwriter too.
The album track list has been set up up chronologically, in order of when they were written. “Bloom Forever”, the album’s title-track, was written on the day Tom and Peaches’ son Phaedra was born, with the title taken from his two middle names, “Bloom” and “Forever”. The song features scintillating guitar work, especially in the weighty, ample guitar solo, and punchy, melodic bass lines that drive the song forward at a steady pace. “Honeymoon” features a sax solo that wouldn’t look out of place on a Twin Peaks’ soundtrack, whilst “Hazy Shades”, with it’s jovial tone and infectious instrumentation, is the perfect song for a lazy summer’s day.
The album’s turning point, “Country Home”, sees Tom dealing directly with the death of Peaches. “My lover gone/ She turned so cold/ Why weren’t her eyes/ Covered and closed?” he sings, painstakingly and baring all. It’s commendable that Cohen would tackle such a thing so head on; what makes it even more admirable is that even though he’s at such a young age and has just started out in his solo career, he’s confident and able enough to pull such a task off effectively.
“Ain’t Gonna Be No Rain” and “New Morning Comes” represent the new day dawning, the sun peaking through the bleak clouds, with the former’s revitalising, rousing chorus and the latter’s self-assuring line “I sit here/ I know/ That the sun’s still shining on/ Even though it’s cold”. “Mother Mary” closes the album on a musical high, with a chorus that even the likes of Nick Cave would be proud of, and a wrapping crescendo of synths in the finale of the song that ends the album on a slightly (intentional?) discordant note.
As well as being heavily inspired by his personal life, Bloom Forever was also greatly inspired by 70’s songwriters, such as Van Morrison, Townes Van Zandt, Judee Sill, etc. You can really feel the influence; the simple bass-drums-guitar-piano setup that gives the songs that stripped down feeling, but still having a full, rich sound to them, with each component mixed wonderfully, allowing the instruments and Cohen’s vocals to shine through individually. This is largely due to the clear, contemporary production style that recalls Nick Launay’s production on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus album, or Tony Visconti’s work on Bowie’s The Next Day and Blackstar.
Bloom Forever is a daring first album from a man clearly confident in his own abilities, and a brave first step into the sometimes daunting world of solo work. His songwriting seed now planted, hopefully Cohen’s craft will continue to bloom, and if not for forever, then at least for a long time to come.