Thomas Cohen has been in the news a lot over the last few years. Not because of his musical output (he fronted art punk misfits, S.C.U.M, before deciding to embark on a solo career), but more because of his marriage to Peaches Geldof, and then the fallout from her death in 2014.
Bloom Forever is Cohen’s first release as a solo artist, and is a welcome surprise. Album opener, ‘Honeymoon’, written about the honeymoon he took with Geldof, begins with 70’s style laid back croon, at once reminiscent of early Lou Reed and even David Bowie. Gone is the abstract punk, that some of us may still be missing. ‘Honeymoon’ is much more about singer-songwriter introspection, the lyrics and melody washing over you, drawing you in.
The title-track has a similarly mellow vibe, taking its title from the middle names of Cohen’s second child. It seems as though you are being taken on the journey of this family, and the lyrics are suitably sentimental: “lay your head next to mine, sweet child”.
The melody picks up pace on ‘Hazy Shades’, with woozy slices of Americana; ‘you know the sun is coming out’ sings Cohen, and it feels that this is almost a resurgence, a re-birth of sorts, all wrapped in slide guitar, trumpets and waltzing off-kilter piano.
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‘Country Home’ is tinged with the grief Cohen must have felt so deeply; ‘sleeping alone, no strength to go on’ he confesses in the opening line. ‘…to find you alone at the top of the stairs in your wedding dress’ he imagines, as if this memory of the life he shared with his wife is coming back to haunt him though bricks and mortar. It is a piano ballad, building towards the chorus, and a pivotal moment on the album, in fact; it’s as though the tracks on Bloom Forever are arranged in chronological order, and this is the breaking point, where the clarity comes rushing in.
This re-emergence continues on ‘Ain’t gonna be o rain’. “There ain’t gonna be no rain, ain’t gonna be no fire” sing a wealth of gospel singers as the guitar and trumpets join in the party, providing an upbeat soul tinge.
‘New Morning Comes’ transports the listener to San Francisco bay in the mid-seventies, or at least it seems to. With a title like that, it calls to mind Dylan’s New Morning, the period when Dylan post motorbike accident, was projecting a family man image. ‘Be the light that shines through the window as a new morning comes’ is the hopeful refrain. The piano is back. It’s lighter, the mood is bright and fresh. It’s a blissful moment.
There is so much 1970’s nostalgia here. Bloom Forever harks back to the time of celebrated Leonard Cohen, of Neil Young, of the McGarrigle Sisters, and yet, just when you think it will descend into mere homage, an electro synth bursts in to rain on your cynicism. Bloom Forever is a heartfelt and healing solo effort.
‘Bloom Forever’ is out now via PIAS
This Thomas Cohen review was written by Jessica Otterwell. Edited by Stephen Butchard.