Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Leonard Cohen: Songs of Love and Hate [Columbia, 1971]
There are no bad songs on this album, and from Paul Buckmaster to acoustic strum, Bob Johnston's production fits each individually. I know, you wonder who cares. Well, I don't trust Cohen's melancholy anapests any more than I do his deadpan despair; there are plenty of songwriters both naive and arty, as well as page poets, with a fresher sense of language. But the poets can't read like Cohen, the songwriters rarely combine his craft and his maturity, and the man can really project. His bare voices and melodies shade in his tenderness and self-mockery ("I who have no need" indeed), creating a dramatic context in which his posture becomes as credible as Denise Levertov's or Mick Jagger's. Granted, its uses are limited--best for late nights alone. Recommended to those who are turned off by Christie's opium fantasy in McCabe and Mrs. Miller but moved by Beatty's snow trek. A-