"Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld," Kurt Cobain wishes on In Utero, "so I can sigh eternally." Cobain was hardly the first alternative figure perversely attracted to Cohen: great casts (R.E.M to Julian Cope) assembled for the tribute album I'm Your Fan, Christian Slater's Gen X misfit in Pump Up the Volume makes "Everybody Knows" his theme song, and on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack songs from The Future sound every bit as coldly '90s as companion tunes by Nine Inch Nails. (Let's just mention Nick Cave). With uncanny savvy about crudity and sophistication, Cohen has managed to remain convincing in the roles of minstrel, poet, guru, and Dylan for three rock generations now. His music may sound like an afterthought, an instabeat stage prop, but the crafting is meticulous: minor keys, piping rhythms, and non-rock flourishes that borrow as much from the intensity of prayer as the languor of the cafe concert. His lyrics-vulgar, mythopoeic, sentimental to the point of corniness, jadely dismissive-are equally performed, pointedly bending askew at verse's corner. And though youth smoked from his voice even before his debut, only wasting further away since, Cohen unabashedly squeaks high and groans low, testing every crack with shabby-genteel defiance. The '60s Cohen can be laughably icky, walking down the river with "Susanne" and Judy Collins, creating Hallmark bohemia with the instant standard "Bird  on a Wire," inducing pretentious teenagers to quote lyrics from "Teachers" in their yearbooks(ok, it was me). Still, Songs of Leonard Cohen tunes like "Master Song" and "The Stranger Song" are hardly coy about the vicious gender dynamics underlying the sexuall revolution.


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