first albumschlock horns, schlock strings, schlock chorusas if to make of it a style. Recognizable, yes no one but Leonard Cohen could have come out with these arrangements but a style, no.
There are a couple of terrific songs on this one (Cohen is one of those artists who would benefit greatly by a "Best Of" album), though the record as a whole has not the charm that his first develops after a long while it is not as likable, because it is frequently downright depressing.
"Famous Blue Raincoat." of the two, is the one that really improves with each hearing: it is about something, which gives the lyrics a spine the other songs on the record lack, what with images longer, more obscure and frequently tangled than before. "Famous Blue Raincoat" is the characteristic L. Cohen hymn to promiscuity ("Winter Lady," "Tonight Will Be Fine," among others): "And you treated my woman To a flake of your life. And when she came home/She was nobody's wife."
It is in this song that the female chorus is most harmfulit draws attention to the lyric, for one thing, which is at that point most inane: "And Jane came by with a lock of your hair/She said that you gave it to her ..." But the guitar here is restful, not the usual busy-signal that one finds on "Avalanche" here and "Songs of the Street," for instance, on The Songs of Leonard Cohen.
The other highlight is "Joan of Arc." That Cohen mostly sets music to verses (whether or not he writes the former first) is painfully clear when he recites, above his own singing voice in the distant background: "Myself I long for love and life But must it come so cruel and oh, so bright?" But there is the melody (nice), the chorus works reasonably well, and the lyrics sound perfectly fine when sung: "She said I'm tired of the war I want the kind of work I had before ..."
"Avalanche," the first song on the first side, hears the famous Cohen mosquito-hum guitar, a distracting stutter. The image here is abjection, and I think (hedge) that it is about the temptations of pity ("It is your flesh I wear"). But it is pretended abjection, after all the weakness, a constant theme of Cohen's, is a pose: "The cripple that you clothe and feed Is neither starved nor cold." As on "Love Calls You By Your Name," later on the record: "Wondering when the bandage pulls away. Was I only limping? Was I really lame?"
"Last Year's Man