Another wonderful review by the one and only Neil McCormick! By Neil McCormick http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/...en-Popular-Problems-review-a-masterpiece.html At the age of 80, Leonard Cohen has created a masterpiece. It’s a smoky, late-night concoction delivered with a deceptively light touch that masks deep seriousness. Opening track Slow proves a gentle curtain raiser, played out with wry humour over a bluesy electric piano, Cohen taking the opportunity to dismiss notions that advancing years might be responsible for the sedate pace of the music: “It’s not because I’m old/ It’s not what dying does/ I always liked it slow/ Slow is in my blood.” The band builds throughout the track and those that follow with splashes of organ, the flutter of percussion, the fruity push of horns and harmonic sweetness of female backing vocals, each new element adding warmth and depth. The past few years of constant gigging seem to have emboldened Cohen to let his band have some headway, at long last ditching the constricted keyboard and drum machine sound he has favoured since the late Eighties. And where better singers battle decaying vocal cords and diminishing range, Cohen embraces it all, growly edges fraying his whispery baritone with bluesman gravitas. The 'popular problems’ he addresses involve internecine conflict, viewing civil war through the metaphor of human relationships and vice versa, illuminating the macrocosm in the microcosm of troubled times. Almost Like the Blues frets at the darkness in the human soul, evoking the story of “the gipsies and the Jews”. Genocidal, geopolitical conflict lurks in these grooves but Cohen doesn’t pin his colours to any mast. The epic Born a Slave examines his Judaic roots while the astonishing Nevermind focuses on the plight of other displaced people, an inspirational flourish of Arabic singing implying compassionate identification with Israel’s historic enemies. Samson in New Orleans addresses cultural divides in America while the beautifully ruminative A Street views a battle from the perspective of a divided love affair: “You put on a uniform to fight the civil war/ You looked so good I didn’t care what side you were fighting for”. Cohen’s couplets are so satisfying, you can’t help but smile when he reaches the inevitable rhyme, even when the underlying message is disturbing. He is not afraid of ambiguity but doesn’t use it to disguise woolly thinking. There is always a sense of deeper layers of meaning, images that linger and ideas to contemplate when the music fades. The album ends, rather wonderfully, with breezy anthem You Got Me Singing, suggesting Cohen is in no hurry to leave the stage: “You got me singing even though the world is gone/ You got me thinking that I’d like to carry on/ You got me singing even though it all looks grim/ You got me singing the Hallelujah hymn.” Hallelujah to that.