Thanks For The Dance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First things, first: Praise for the success or criticism for the failure of a posthumous album should in part be aimed at the person putting it together after the death of the artist. In the case of Leonard Cohen’s Thanks For The Dance, it is praise indeed for his son Adam. The touches that he and a roving band of ardent Leonard admirers (members of The National and Arcade Fire, Beck, and longtime collaborator Jennifer Warnes, among others) put on the music are subtle yet stirring, and they always keep that fathoms-deep voice at the center of the narrative.
Then again, how could it not be? Cohen hadn’t lost anything off his fastball at the end, still mixing sly wit with incisive commentary, still sliding smoothly between the sacred and the sensuous, still elucidating both the meanness of the world (“Puppets”) and the fickleness of the heart (the title track.) When he laments during “The Goal that “the goal/Falls short of the reach,” it’s understandable, because his reach as a songwriter was boundless.
Opening track “Happens To The Heart” is an epic, Cohen coming on like a Raymond Chandler detective with his withering, unsentimental one-liners. But just a few songs later, he trips amiably and nimbly across the Latin rhythms of “The Night Of Santiago,” randy and ready as he pursues a riverside fling.
Those who go into Thanks For The Dance looking for a half-album or a collection of fragments will be pleasantly surprised. There is really not much to separate this from the late-period, post-millennial albums that Cohen started churning out to ease financial issues, and those records maintained an imposingly high standard. On closing track “Listen To The Hummingbird,” Leonard leaves us with the line, “Don’t listen to me.” Is it a sly joke? A bout of self-deprecation? Whatever it is, our apologies, Leonard. We can’t help but listen.