Voice of despair fails the test of time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 April, 1993, 12:00am

Leonard Cohen: The Future (Columbia records).

IT IS ironic an album depending so much on the past should be entitled The Future.

Leonard Cohen has been described as a poet and Renaissance man but he is, above all, miserable.

This is what Cohen has been doing since his debut album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen, back in Christmas 1967.

He follows no melody and simply recites his ''poetry'' using rhythm to help the flow.

The Future is something of an anachronism - the arrangements and moods would be familiar even to those people who stopped listening to him in January 1968.

Cohen does make the odd concession to the 1990s in that synthesisers can be heard throughout, but he has such a distinctive and monotonous vocal style it is hard to detect any development over the past decades.

Try as he might, he finds it impossible to infuse a song with verve. There is something about a man with a deep voice talking slowly that cannot fail to bring you down.

Cohen's music impresses that being low is a state of mind, which is best experienced in finite doses.

But even the grim mood is sometimes shattered by rhyming couplets so bad they leap off the CD.

It is impossible to get away with lines such as ''the maestro says it's Mozart, but it sounds like bubble gum, when you're waiting for the miracle to come '' when there is no tune to back them up.

On Democracy, although having the good sense to display a touch of irony in the line ''democracy is coming to the USA '', Cohen has the bad form to continue: ''It's coming through a hole in the air, from those nights in Tiananmen Square. It's coming fromthe feel that it ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there .'' Musically, The Future is full of no surprises and lyrically ranges from the unremarkable to the inept.

This isn't really a bad album, it is simply an album which fails to inspire either joy or despair - a pity because despair was something Cohen did well in his angry youth.