These days, Leonard Cohen makes albums mostly because he has to. His then-manager famously emptied his bank accounts several years ago, and Cohen, 77, must now spend what would otherwise be his golden years touring and recording.
"Old Ideas," only Cohen's 12th studio album since 1967 but his best since the Reagan-era "I'm Your Man," makes veiled reference to his twin Troubles, old age and lack of money: "I've got no future/ I know my days are few," he intones grimly, because he always intones grimly, in "Darkness." "I thought the past would last me/ But the darkness got that, too."
"Old Ideas" is, it hardly need be said, a work of genius, even if its title is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Both resplendent and grim, it tills the same ground Cohen has furrowed since he began making albums in his 30s, when he was a young man who only sounded old. All of its tropes are familiar ones, though familiarity in no way blunts their impact. It's a pungent mix of the sacred and the profane, the sexual and the sepulchral, with a probably necessary emphasis on the latter.