Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Future (1992)

Leonard Cohen was back once and for all (more or less) with The Future, which followed 1988's I'm Your Man and a revival of interest in him. Now he was a fixture of popular culture, the crusty croaker and natty dresser in the suit and fedora hat. The poet from Canada. The '60s survivor. The man of Montreal, New York, and Los Angeles. It was a living. The movies were continuing to absorb and disseminate him, which is when you can start to feel like you've made it. Three songs here (the title song, "Waiting for the Miracle," and "Anthem") can be heard in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (a movie, full disclosure, I have never had much affection for). "Waiting for the Miracle" got a return engagement in Wonder Boys (a better movie, packed full of Cohen, Neil Young, Tim Hardin, and other usual suspects, with more Bob Dylan than anything). It's evident on The Future that Cohen has grown wise to the utility of surrounding himself with first-rate studio hands—the song lengths alone speak to the easy-rolling groove-making going on here, with four of the nine songs running over seven minutes and, for the first time, an instrumental (the sweet and stately album closer, "Tacoma Trailer"). Yes, the grooves lean toward adult contemporary, but they are grooves. And the best are full of irresistible little hooks too, often in the arrangements. The album has a number of undifferentiated producer credits—six names, including Rebecca de Mornay, Cohen's girlfriend at the time—so it's hard to know who to credit for the lovely clean and inviting sound, which can get busy with orchestral and choral accompaniments but never seems cluttered. Maybe Cohen himself—he's the first producer named. It's hard to believe he knew his way around a soundboard, but certainly he would get final approval, so OK. Sharon Robinson is here again, but only collaborating on "Waiting for the Miracle." As the title implies, The Future is probably most famous for contemplating the future in that particular present. Cohen was publicly absorbing the history going down around him, notably, in 1989, Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Democracy" ("is coming to the USA") jeers at the US's ability to cope with these world changes—that's been an easy position to take all my life, and has the benefit of making you look prescient later (at least in these particular terrible times). "Anthem" looks in another direction entirely, much beloved for its lines "There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in." If that seems trite or saccharine, at least there's something weirdly satisfying about seeing Cohen as the pollyanna for once. I don't like the Irving Berlin cover, "Always," and it's the longest song here, so it's not like The Future can't be a bit of a bumpy road, especially if, like me, you are slightly skeptical about the Cohen project. But it never sounds bad either.

No comments:

Post a Comment