Becoming old is a frightening, often harrowing prospect for all of us. When we no longer shift through the higher gears as much as we used to, and the chain no longer cares if it’s well oiled or rattling against the closing corridors of life, do we become only a fraction of our former selves? Do we only emit an echo of our often more creative, fertile pasts? No, not all the time we don’t. Especially not on Leonard Cohen’s ever-ticking watch.
At the fragile age of 82, Leonard Cohen is still watching behind closed blinds, ready to shout ‘get off my lawn!’ with his voice of song whenever the grim reaper decides to come a-knocking. Marking his birthday with a gift to us all, Cohen has released the title-track from his new album, You Want It Darker, which will be released October 21st, and it’s a glorious gem wrapped in dark, black amber.
A reverb-soaked church choir of voices courtesy of Montreal’s Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir immediately sets up the religion-exploring tone of the song, and the repeated cries of ‘Hineni, hineni’ (Hebrew for ‘here I am’, in a complete, spiritual sense) fuel that same age-old question that a lot of Cohen’s songs dwell and dance around; that if God is real, where exactly is he hiding?
Ceremonious church organs and a sturdy, serving bassline give the song it’s skeletal frame, whilst Cohen serves up words of disatisfaction with the higher deity in question: ‘Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name/ Vilified, crucified, in the human frame/ A million candles burning for the help that never came’. Cohen’s gravelly voice, fresh from the smokehouse, has an air of extreme confidence to it, as though he knows things God could never, and that he would have the upper hand in conversation, if the time ever came.
The existence, or absence, of God is a mystery that we may never truly get to unravel, as we all hurlte towards old age and eventually, our end. What isn’t a mystery to us is our need to fully understand this puzzle called life before our time is up, offering our brave (and often in vain) attempts at reasoning, as we collectively piece together our thoughts, song by song, question by question. However, when the questions sound this good, do we ever really want the answers?